AK DOC Dogs in Training
Dedicated to the Alaska Department of Corrections Cell Dog and Service Dog Training Goals and Accomplishments
Hiland Mountain Correctional Center will formally transfer its newest inmate-trained Service Dogs to wounded warriors on February 20th at 1 pm. Bella is a two-year old Black Labrador Retriever who was donated to HMCC as a puppy by a Mat-Su Valley breeder, Byers Peak Labradors. Maddie came to Hiland Mountain as an eight-week old puppy from the Mat-Su Animal Care Shelter. She was spotted by shelter staff for her intelligence and suitability to service dog training.
Bella will be paired with Aaron Willard, who lives in Fairbanks. In 2004 Willard received a commission from the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Wainwright with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He quickly deployed to Iraq, where he was wounded twice, most seriously on the night of October 30, 2006. That’s when Willard and his patrol were ambushed by an explosive projectile, small arms and machine gun fire. As a result of the attack Willard was severely injured and spent three years recovering at Fort Wainwright before medically retiring in August, 2009.
Sgt. John S. Revilak, who is being paired with Maddie, joined the Army in 2004. In June 2007 John, who had been assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was deployed to Afghanistan. On October 11th, 2007 his platoon was ambushed with an IED disabling the lead vehicle of 1st Platoon. Immediately, enemy forces opened up with a volley of RPGs and small arms fire. Revilak’s vehicle caught fire, forcing those inside to exit under heavy enemy fire.
The intensity of the exploding IED resulted in John sustaining a traumatic brain injury which left him in constant pain. Despite that, John remained with his unit for another year until he was reassigned to the San Diego Naval Hospital. John medically retired in February, 2011.
Bella and Maddie are the sixth and seventh service dogs trained by inmate volunteers at Hiland Mountain.
Sophie, who has been in service dog training by inmates and staff for well over a year at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River will be transferred to wounded soldier Captain Christopher Harrington at 11:30 am Friday, December 14, at HMCC.
Captain Harrington, originally from Antioch, California, enlisted in the Army in 1991 and completed nine years of enlisted active duty, earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, before receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant from the California State University Sacramento and University of California Davis ROTC in 2004. Captain Harrington since has completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from CSU Sacramento and earned a Master’s of Public Administration from Webster University.
He has served in various engineer units both in the United States and overseas, as well as participate in several deployments to the Balkans, South Pacific Theater, and Middle East in support of humanitarian and combat operations. During combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Captain Harrington served as a Leader of a Combat Engineer platoon in support of a Armor Company and as the Task Force Engineer in support of a Light Infantry Task Force, providing both a maneuver and maneuver support capability. While conducting cordon and search operations in December of 2006, Captain Harrington was wounded in an IED attack and then again in January 2007 was severely wounded by an indirect fire attack during clearing operations.
Chris remains on active duty and currently commands the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He is married to the former Teresa Martin of Antioch. They have two children, Carter (6) and Aiden (4).
Wyatt became the department’s first inmate-trained service dog. Wyatt, a 90-pound yellow lab mix was trained at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center for 17 months and was presented to his new owner, a wounded soldier, in March of 2009. Although he was a large dog, he displayed a calm personality, intelligence and a keen ability to learn new tasks.
Wyatt got along well with other dogs and displayed no aggression towards cats. He loved to play ball and chase, and while he could get overly enthusiastic when player he could calm down when told to “knock it off” or “leave it.”
Wyatt was trained in all areas of basic obedience such as ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ ‘leave it,’ ‘heel,’ ‘let’s go’, and ‘swing and come around.’ Wyatt could retrieve items that were pointed at. He learned certain items by name such as: ‘remote,’ ‘keys’ and ‘leash.’ If he didn’t know know the name of the item, he can be taught by repeating the name of the item and pointing.
Wyatt learned to turn the light on in a room by flipping the light switch with his nose. The command used is “light on”. Wyatt also learned the phrase “light off” and performed the function well. Wyatt learned to heel when being walked by an individual who is in a wheelchair or using a walker for assistance.