MSP, K-9 Participate in Counterterrorism Training at Cherry Capital Airport

Michigan State Police brought a bomb-sniffing dog to Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport Thursday.

It’s part of a counterterrorism training effort.

Airport Director Kevin Klein says, “Not only are they training for a real event, but they’re also in the public eye showing that we have those layers of security.”

It wasn’t an emergency, but a training opportunity for the Michigan State Police and one of their K-9 teams. 

Travelers at Cherry Capital may have been a bit surprised to see state police and a K-9 walking the terminal.

Klein says, “They may have to come in and investigate at different times, whether its passenger luggage or strange boxes that may be found or anything like that could happen at the airport, just to make sure we’re always putting the traveling public’s safety first.”

Louie and his handler, Trooper Tim Johnson, went through the routine training exercise. The Labrador was trying to find the scent of an explosive device.

Johnson says, “We train at least once a week and we try to find an area where people are walking through, and the dog searches the people walking. Then we’ll send a decoy through with an odor on him, or her, and the dog has to find it, to practice.”

With about 15 arrivals and departures at Cherry Capital every day, smaller airports like this may not exactly be a hotbed for security concerns.

Even so, state police say they hope to have a K-9 permanently stationed in this community sometime next year.

This K-9 team is from Lansing, but there are more than 40 at work throughout the state.

MSP says German shepherds are more commonly used for illegal drugs and tracking suspects, but Labradors like Louie are typically used for explosive searches in crowds.

Johnson says, “We want a dog that’s a little more friendly and appealing to the public. The lab is a pretty friendly dog. These labs are trained to find explosives on people as they walk through a crowd. So if you have something like the Boston bombing where somebody had a backpack bomb, that’s what we’re trying to intercept.”

Klein adds, “At smaller airports across the country you don’t see that very much. So what helps us is to bring that same type of security posture here to our airport.”