When Private Hailey Lennon walked through the kennels and dog runs at RAAF Base Amberley, a bouncy, energetic dog with a dark coat caught her eye.
She had just started the 14-week Military Working Dog Handler Basic Course at the RAAF Security and Fire School and was eager to be matched with one of the dogs that would become an important part of her role as a military police dog handler at 1st Military Police Battalion.
After being introduced to each of the dogs that were ready to be matched with a student, Private Lennon and her fellow students were asked to list the names of three dogs they would like to work with.
“One of the instructors brought up the energetic dog with the dark coat that had caught my eye,” Private Lennon said.
“She said his name was Max and that he was hard-working but also cuddly and affectionate.
“I thought ‘That sounds like me’, so I put his name down as well as the names of another two dogs.”
The following day, Private Lennon was excited to find she had been matched with Max.
However, her excitement was short lived because Max had injured one of his paws and couldn’t join her on the course for two weeks.
“It was unfortunate that I had to train with other dogs for those two weeks, but I was grateful to even be on the course,” Private Lennon said.
Growing up in Yass, NSW, where she attended Berinba Public School and Yass High School, Private Lennon knew she wanted a career working with dogs.
“On my 18th birthday, my cousin, who works for Defense, told me about the role of a military police dog handler and that was it,” Private Lennon said.
“I pretty much applied straight away.”
After enlisting in May 2020 and completing her initial employment training, Private Lennon posted into Delta Company, 1st Military Police Battalion, in June 2021.
She was nominated for the RAAF Security and Fire School’s Military Working Dog Handler Basic Course at RAAF Base Amberley when travel restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic led to another member being unable to attend the course.
She was awarded dux of the course by Commanding Officer RAAF Security and Fire School Wing Commander Craig Nielsen.
“Even though I couldn’t do any work with Max during the two weeks that he was recovering from his injury, I went in early every morning to feed him and clean his kennel,” Private Lennon said.
“We started bonding straight away and even though he’s a different dog now that we’ve done a lot of training together, he’s still exactly as he was described to me by the course instructors.
“He’s got the biggest personality and loves to work for his handler, but he’s still really cuddly, energetic and playful.”
At 32kg and almost two years of age, the Belgian Shepherd Malinois is a huge presence in Private Lennon’s work life with 1st Military Police Battalion’s Military Police Dog Platoon based at Swartz Barracks, Oakey.
“Sometimes I wish I could take him home with me because I know he’d love that, but he’s a working dog, not a pet,” Private Lennon said.
“Every day at work we train together because there’s always something to progress.
“We do pack marches together, go running together and when I need to do some work on a computer, he comes to the office with me.”
While Private Lennon will be out in the field on Exercise Warfighter with 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment when National Military Working Dog Day is celebrated on June 7, she’s excited about the opportunity to put all her training to the test.
“Exercise Warfighter will be our first big task,” Private Lennon said.
“When Max and I were on course the instructors told me he wind-detected further than the other dogs.
“Max indicated that he’d picked up the scent about 300 meters away from the target.
“He also did the fastest building search during our assessment.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to build on those skills during Exercise Warfighter so when we attempt certification later this year, we’ll pass and be ready to deploy as a team.”