Grand Forks opens new state-of-the-art facility for canines

Bico, 319th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, sits in front of Staff Sgt. Carlton Isaacson, 319 SFS MWD handler, in their new K-9 facility at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Jan. 24, 2020. This new facility is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to improve the quality of life for the MWD’s, which includes heated flooring and upgraded ventilation and sanitation systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick A. Wyatt)
January 30, 2020

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.— Base members and leadership celebrated the grand opening of a new K-9 facility here, Jan. 24.

The six-year, $2.1 million dollar project was necessary in order to correct deficiencies in an aging facility that no longer aligned with the demands of the military working dog mission.

Military working dogs and their handlers are responsible for protecting and defending the base using patrol, drug and explosive detection, and specialized training that readies them for almost any possible situation.

According to Staff Sgt. Sara Yandell, 319th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, the old facility pales in comparison the new one.

“The difference between the two facilities is night and day,” said Yandell. “Our old facility just didn’t have what we needed or the space to adequately provide for our military working dogs.”

In fact, the new state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind, boasting a fenced-in half-acre obedience course, which is critical to building trust between a handler and their K-9.

The obedience yard is not the only improvement putting the new kennels head-and-shoulders over its predecessor. It features many other enhancements including heated flooring, upgraded sanitization systems and even kennel and work area-separated ventilation, an issue that was voiced at the beginning of the project.

While the renovations went smoothly, the project had its share of challenges. During construction, the dogs were temporarily housed in other available spaces on base.

“The move required an abundance of coordination to ensure we were still meeting requirements for our military working dogs,” said Yandell. “Hundreds of hours were dedicated by an array of agencies to ensure this temporary home felt more like a permanent one.”

Yandell oversaw the entire renovation and expressed her appreciation for seeing the project come full-circle. According to her, the renovations would not have been possible without the support from base leadership.

“We couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming support from the wing and an abundance of other base organizations,” said Yandell. “Everything is just substantially improved and it has definitely improved the quality of life for the dogs.”