Brad Caravello: “These dogs are incredible”
News Report Staff
Brad Caravello loves dogs, eventually wants to be a police officer and also had a desire to follow his brother into the military.
Put all those factors together and it’s no surprise this 20-year-old from Altamont is a Private First Class with the Military Police Canine Unit in the Army.
“My brother (Nick Glenn) is in the Army,” Brad said. “I always saw him as a role model and I wanted to do what he did. So I signed up right after my senior year in high school.”
Brad’s desire to be a police officer some day and his affection for dogs led him to sign up for the Military Police and Canine School.
“I know I want to be a police office after I get out of the service, so I was looking for something to further my career,” Brad added. “I always enjoyed dogs when I was growing up, so becoming a trainer is something I believed I could do.”
Today, PFC Caravello trains dogs that search for explosives and drugs. He recently completed a tour of duty at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaeg, South Korea, and had an opportunity to visit with friends and family before reporting to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on August 18.
Brad is the son of Dee and Tony Caravello. He has four brothers and one sister. While in high school, he participated in baseball and cross country and enjoyed FFA. He graduated from Altamont High School in 2015 and immediately enlisted.
For 16 years, he and his Black Lab, Shadow, were best buddies.
“We did everything together,” Brad recalled. “No matter what I did, she was always there with me. It was tough when she died.”
Brad first reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in November 2015. After 20 weeks of basic training, he was transferred to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. That’s where he started Canine School.
“I first had to learn how to be patient with the dogs,” Brad explained. “Like humans, dogs make mistakes, too. Their main goal in life is to make people happy. That’s why they respond so well when they do something right.”
Brad said there is a period of time for the trainer and dog to get accustomed to each other. Then they start learning basic commands, like “sit, down and heel.”
“There is a lot of repetition involved,” Brad noted. “If they do something right, they get rewarded. We normally use verbal praise as the reward.
“I was taught the proper training methods, although there is no perfect way,” he pointed out. “All dogs respond differently. They all have different personalities and some just learn quicker than others. You just have to find the best way that suits both you and the dog.”
German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois are the two types of dogs used by the military canine units. German Shepherds have been used by police for years, but the Malinois is becoming more and more popular.
“They don’t have the back and hip issues a German Shepherd does,” Brad noted. “Plus, the Malinois has more energy than a Shepherd.”
Brad worked with two German Shepherds during his 13 weeks at Lackland AFB and then had one of each when he was sent to South Korea in July 2016.
Senna, the Shepherd, is eight years old, and is trained to find explosives. Vanda, the Malinois, who is two, received training to locate drugs.
“Senna was more experienced and already knew the commands, But Vanda was brand new,” Brad said. “I was her first handler. It took about two weeks to build a rapport and gain her trust. She was a laid-back puppy with lots of energy. I had to be patient with her.”
A toy is also used as a reward.
“These dogs love their toys,” Brad said with a big smile. “They will do anything to get their toy. It actually makes them easier to train. When they see you, they get excited and are ready to go to work. They are driven to get that toy.”
Part of the training includes an obedience course. The dogs must be able to respond in tunnels, stairs, hurdles and even a cat walk, which consists of narrow boards. And they need to be able to respond without being on a leash.
In addition, they must be able to respond during gun fire.
“They can’t be scared of the gunfire,” Brad noted. “Vanda was scared at first, plus she liked to chase the bullet casings when they were discharged.”
The use of her toy helped in the training.
“I would put the toy under by armpit,” he explained. “She would be focused on that and not running after the casings. If she didn’t take off during the gunfire, she got the toy as a reward. If she did take off, we’d do it again.”
In order to be used by the military, the dogs have to receive certification. They are put through a week-long series of tests and are judged. And there is very little margin for error.
The courses were designed in a variety of sets, from outside to the inside of buildings. There were 20 aids hidden on the course.
Drug dogs must find 18 of the 20 aids, while dogs looking for explosives have to find 19 of the 20 in order to be certified.
So far, Brad has never been called to locate explosives, but he has executed several drug searches.
“Drugs are always an issue everywhere you go; even in the military,” he admitted. “I’ve done drug searches, even in barracks, but I’ve never found any yet.”
Despite the friction that exists between South and North Korea, Brad said he didn’t have any concerns while stationed at Camp Humphreys.
“The North and South Korean people don’t like each other,” he said. “The South Koreans are very friendly and they want to have just one country. But I don’t believe North Korea will ever allow that to happen.”
For now, Brad will be stationed at Fort Campbell, but he’s said there is still a possibility he could be sent overseas again.
“I could go anywhere from Honduras to Iraq, and I’m ready to go anywhere I’m needed,” Brad noted. “I’m there to make sure everyone is safe.”
Brad will be training a new dog at Fort Campbell and he’s looking forward to it.
“Seeing the end result is great,” he said. “These dogs are incredible. Their sense of smell is 10 times better than ours. To see them work and what they do is amazing. These dogs go out and save lives.
“They are so smart,” Brad added. “They sometimes know what you’re going to do before you do it. So I will mess with them once in a while to throw them off and keep them on top of their game.”
Brad hasn’t decided how long he will remain in the military.
“That all depends on the next couple of years,” he said. “I’ve always loved dogs. So whether I’m in the military or a police officer, I know this will always be the type of job I want to do. I love it.”
If everything works out, he and Senna might be reunited soon. Senna has reached retirement age and Brad has filed adoption papers.
“I’m hoping that will happen pretty quickly,” he admitted. “Right now, she’s just getting fat and lazy in Korea.”