Securing those who secure the maps
Established in 1996, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a little-known government body that is both a combat support agency under DOD, and an intelligence agency of the United States Intelligence Community. It sprang from the old Army Map Service (AMS) / U.S. Army Topographic Command (USATC) and has some 16,000 employees, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, who are all about mapping and tracking military and strategic objects.
They just released, through ODNI, a really interesting piece on their nine Explosives Detection K-9 teams.
The first six-week phase of training focuses on imprinting, which is a form of learning that typically happens at an early age and lasts the lifetime of the animal. During this process, a K-9 is offered an explosive compound to smell, and then given a food reward. Repetition is vital, which is why the smell-eat process may be repeated up to 200 times a day.
Once imprinted, the dogs are then taught to alert their handlers by sitting when they smell the odor. At that point, the cycle of detection — smell, sit, eat — is complete.
The second phase of training, which lasts for 10 weeks, introduces the K-9 to its handler as the two begin working together to refine their search techniques. This phase is vital to both the dog and the handler, as they begin to develop their bond and learn how each team member goes about conducting such an important mission.
During this period, the handler learns the dog’s personality and tendencies, which helps them to recognize the subtle clues their canine partner cannot vocalize.
Based off a finite group of explosive components, ATF estimates there are 19,000 explosive formulations.