MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- LEESBURG, Ga. - A military working-dog team from Marine Corps Logistics Bases Albany was called into action three times in the past week, to aid local law-enforcement at three Lee County schools.
The first incident occurred Thursday when faculty at the Lee County Elementary School on Firetower Road in Leesburg. found a note in the girls' restroom that indicated a bomb would detonate inside the facility at 10:30 a.m. Shortly after discovering the threat, the proper authorities were notified and quickly responded to the school. Among the authorities who responded were a team of Marine dog handlers and their animals, who are trained to locate explosives.
While the students and faculty were safely inside a gym on Starksville Avenue, an evacuation site, the Marines and their dogs began thoroughly searching the school for a bomb.
This was the second time in as many days that these Albany Marines and their K-9 partners saved the day. Two Lee County Middle School students found a bomb threat at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 19. The note that was found indicated a bomb would be detonated at 10:15 a.m. Nov. 20.
The MCLB Albany K-9 team searched the middle school for three hours and declared the school was bomb-free and safe for students and faculty to re-enter.
Gunnery Sgt. Brett A. Villarrubia, Provost Marshal's Office operations chief, was very confident that his K-9 Marines would perform well when they responded to the bomb threat.
"These are the hardest working Marines that I've seen in my 17 years of service," said Villarrubia. "I have faith in these dogs and the Marines who handle them to get the job done."
Although the Marines reported to two bomb threats during the week, their job was not done. Once again the dog teams were called into action when another similar incident occurred Friday, when two threatening notes were found at Lee County High School at 11 a.m. and Sgt. Nester Antoine, kennel master here, reported to the first and last bomb threats of the week.
"You are always pretty nervous, going into a bomb-threat because you never know what to expect," said Antoine.
For the Marine dog handlers who know there could be a bomb in the building when they respond to a threat, the situation makes them a little uneasy. But the handlers, such as Antoine, know their dogs are well trained and up to the challenge, he said. The dogs, who don't know the difference between a training exercise and the real thing, just do what they're trained to do Ð sniff out the bomb.
"We train for scenarios like this on a daily basis," said Antoine. "So, for them it is routine."
Although this type of search is routine for Marines and their dogs, it is still strenuous work. The searches took two to three hours each time, which takes its toll on the dogs. To ensure the dogs' performance is top-notch, the handlers give them plenty of breaks along with fresh water.
The searches continue until something is found or the dog team is certain a bomb is not present.
"Once everyone on the team feels we have cleared the school the, we then turn it over to local law-enforcement on the scene," Said Antoine. "Then it's up to them to determine if the building is safe."
Each of the three calls were "false alarms" and no bombs were found. However the searches were still good experience for the Marines.
"This is our chance to shine, and to just show everyone what we are capable of," said Antoine. "This is a big task to have on your shoulders -- ensuring people's safety. But it makes you feel good after you have cleared the building and people can re-enter, knowing there are no bombs in there."