Special Agent Chris Bombardiere and his black lab Mojo have been training together for 10 weeks.
“I like to run him in the morning for an hour and then again in the late afternoon,” Bombardiere says.
Mojo is just four months old and soon will start a full-time job with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“You really have to love this because it’s seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Bombardiere says.
Since 1996, the ATF K-9 training center in Front Royal has trained thousands of highly specialized dogs used by ATF, local police, the military and other agencies all over the world.
Mojo and his classmates were down the road from the facility Friday, sniffing through rows of used cars. They can detect 19,000 different scents, including the smell of a firearm. Mojo searched the wheel, a common place to stash a gun.
“I’ve seen very elaborate traps where either firearms are hidden on the inside of the vehicle or the outside. He nailed both of them,” Bombardiere says.
Mojo is more partner than tool. Bombardiere is an explosives expert. Together they’re a true investigative team.
“We certified last week and we’re ready to go,” he says.
Friday was graduation day. Of the eight graduating K-9’s, one will go to ATF’s Washington Field Division. Special Agent Carl Vasilko says the dog will be a critical asset.
“Having just one K-9 to assist us in our fight against violent crime in that region, I can’t express how thrilled we are to have that resource available to us,” he says.
But Bombardiere says the last day in training is bittersweet.
“You know you’re getting top notch training, but you can’t wait to use this tool they’ve provided you with and start working.”