Canine cops bring careers to close

WATERBURY — The Vermont State Police Bomb Squad on March 23 retired two veteran explosive detection canines.
Sgt. Bill Sweeny’s K9 Oak and Sgt. Bob Lucas’s K9 Freesia have served as the department’s bomb dogs since 2005 and have amassed significant résumés. During their careers K9s Oak and Freesia have protected the president of the United States, two vice presidents, two first ladies, several presidential candidates, the U.S. Attorney General, the FBI director, two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two Vermont governors, and a variety of other dignitaries who have visited Vermont from across the country and around the world. Over the years Oak and Freesia have also made regular appearances at the Vermont Statehouse to help protect the governor and Legislature.
With the retirement of these experienced K9s, the Vermont State Police selected Troopers Steven Gelder and Matthew Sweitzer as the Bomb Squad’s new explosive detection canine handlers. Replacing Oak and Freesia, K9s Nacoma and Greer will continue to represent VSP in its mission to protect the citizens and visitors of the state of Vermont. Trooper Gelder and K9 Nacoma are currently stationed at the Rutland Barracks, while Trooper Sweitzer and K9 Greer are currently stationed at the Middlesex Barracks.
The nine-member VSP Bomb Squad is federally accredited with all team members being certified by the FBI as bomb technicians, and it is the only public safety (non-military) bomb squad in the state of Vermont. The VSP Bomb Squad is a “collateral duty” team meaning that all members have other full-time assignments within the Vermont State Police and serve on the Bomb Squad as an extra duty. Members attend a six-week basic course of instruction at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., and are required to undergo re-certification every three years. In addition, the bomb dog handlers undergo eight weeks of explosives detection training with their dogs.
The VSP Bomb Squad responded to 39 calls in 2012, an increase from the previous year but about average over the long term. Most of the calls were related to the recovery and disposal of explosive materials.

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