I. General Description of the Wilderness Cadaver Mission Readiness Evaluation
The mission readiness evaluation (MRE) for wilderness cadaver is designed to demonstrate that a dog/handler team has the ability to find a cadaver using a wilderness cadaver area search approach. This MRE is intended to determine a dog / handler team's ability to find a cadaver in a relatively large area.
The standard described here is only intended to test the dog / handler team's ability in wilderness cadaver area search. Prior to requesting a wilderness cadaver MRE, the handler is expected to have demonstrated general mission readiness according to current Mountain Canine Corps requirements.
This evaluation is specific to a dog and a handler as a team. A dog is only mission ready with the handler(s) with whom the dog passes the evaluation.
II. General Format
The test location will be an approved area as described in section III. The scent source and its location will be unknown to both the handler and evaluator.
The Vice President of Mountain Canine Corps serves as the Wilderness Cadaver MRE Administrator (WILMA) or selects another administrator. The WILMA is responsible for selecting the test area, the evaluator, source setter entry point, source location, and the initial meeting location and time for the dog team and evaluator. The WILMA is also responsible for providing the source setter with appropriate materials, including a clearly marked map with source location information, and establishing a communications plan. The WILMA is not expected to be present during the actual evaluation.
The overall structure of the MRE follows.
1. Brief of the handler - The handler and the evaluator will meet at the designated location. The evaluator will brief the handler and provide a topographic map of the area and the boundaries of the search area, including UTM coordinates of boundaries, if necessary.
2. Brief from the handler - After the briefing, the handler is given time to develop a search strategy. When the handler is ready, the handler briefs the evaluator on the intended search plan, including:
a) initial overall search strategy,
b) their intended starting point,
c) the expected alert that their dog will give on finding the source material, and,
d) any other information the handler deems pertinent to the search.
3. Search period - The time limit for the search activity of the evaluation is 3 hours, with time beginning upon reaching the starting point of the search area.
4. Debrief from the handler - At completion of the evaluation (i.e., after the time limit elapses or the handler feels that the search has been completed), the handler will debrief the evaluator. In the debrief, the handler will:
a) provide written coordinates of the material location,
b) mark the material location on a map,
c) give an estimated probability of detection (POD) for the entire search area, including any possible gaps in covered area (with reasons for the gap), and,
d) provide any other information the handler feels appropriate for a debrief on a real search mission.
5. Premature termination of MRE - At all times during the evaluation, all persons involved in the MRE are responsible for safety. The handler or evaluator can cancel an evaluation at any time. Cancellation should not be done lightly; however, in cases of personal or canine injury, severe weather such as thunderstorms or extremely heavy snow conditions, or other safety concerns, cancellation is appropriate.
III. Search Location
The search location for a specific evaluation will be an area selected by the WILMA from a pool of locations deemed appropriate by the Wilderness Cadaver MRE Location Committee. The Committee is chaired by the Vice President and is composed of at least two additional members approved by the Board. Factors considered by the Committee will include terrain, accessibility, size, weather conditions, and safety.
1. Terrain - The location for the evaluation will be of moderate terrain, representative of a real search mission MCC encounters in New Mexico. The location shall not be so topographically challenging as to preclude a complete search by an average, physically fit handler/dog team.
2. Area bounds definition - The area bounds must be defined by natural terrain features, such as a cliff wall, or by UTM coordinates, or a combination of natural and UTM coordinate bounds.
3. Area size - The Committee shall identify search areas of approximately 40 acres with exact size dependent on vegetation coverage and terrain.
4. Weather conditions - The Committee will make general recommendations on the suitability of locations designated as appropriate with respect to weather conditions. When the WILMA selects an MRE location, these recommendations and the weather conditions will be considered. For example, a hot, unshaded location should be avoided in the middle of summer.
5. Safety - The location shall be one that is deemed safe for searching. In particular, a determination of whether active hunting will be taking place near the location prior to and on the scheduled MRE date must be considered.
IV. Requirements for Scent Material and its Placement
1. Source material - The scent material may be decomposed human tissue or fluids (rags with decomposed fluid, placenta, blood, tissue, etc.) in sufficient amount to mimic a deceased body. The approximate quantity should be enough to fill a one gallon bag.
Material shall be placed roughly 24 hours prior to the scheduled start of the MRE. The source material must be contained in a well-sealed container prior to its placement to avoid the dog tracking the scent source on its path to its placement. Once placed, the material shall be contained such that it cannot be accessed but it still essentially open to the atmosphere (e.g., a cage). The container shall be anchored to prohibit its removal by animals or people. The container shall be placed on the ground or at ground level. The material container shall not be easy to visually detect from a long distance (e.g., brightly colored, flagged, prominently positioned above the surrounding area, etc.). The container should be marked with "search and rescue training aid; do not disturb" or similar wording.
2. Decoy material - At least one source of decoy material shall be placed in the search area. Decoy material shall be composed of animal tissue or fluids (rags with decomposed fluid, placenta, blood, tissue). A dog is allowed to investigate the decoy material but may not alert on it (see section VI.) Material shall be placed roughly 24 hours prior to the scheduled start of the MRE, during the time period when the human source material is placed. The material shall be contained such that it cannot be accessed but it still essentially open to the atmosphere (e.g., a cage). The container shall be anchored to prohibit its removal by animals or people. The container should be marked with "search and rescue training aid; do not disturb" or similar wording. Upon observation, it should be possible to confuse the container and its contents with a container housing human source material.
3. Responsibilities of the source material setter - The source setter will record their track into and out of the search the area. Recording of the track is necessary to evaluate whether the dog tracks the source setter or the source material during source placement. Tracking the source setter or source material will invalidate the MRE if it appears that the dog tracked to the material source rather than finding it by means of air scent. The source setter will carefully read and understand the information supplied by the WILMA. This information will include the source material placement coordinates and suggested entry point into the search area. The material placement shall not be intentionally difficult or tricky.
V. Evaluator Requirements
1. Evaluator qualifications - The evaluator must have demonstrated knowledge of this Wilderness Cadaver Standard and wilderness cadaver work by:
a) being a current or prior handler of a mission ready wilderness cadaver dog or air scent dog; or
b) being a current or prior handler of a mission ready dog and a current handler of a dog in advanced wilderness cadaver or air scent training; or
c) through experience, having knowledge of wilderness cadaver dogs and deemed qualified by the board.
Notice will be given to the handler of the potential evaluator and the evaluator's status. At the time of notice, the handler has the right to request a different evaluator.
2. Evaluator responsibilities - The evaluator will carefully read and understand the information provided by the WILMA, and ask any questions regarding the MRE prior to the evaluation. During the initial brief of the handler, the evaluator shall give complete briefing information and answer any of the handler's questions about the information or this standard.
After performing the duty of the initial brief of the handler, the evaluator shall act as a passive observer but need not maintain total silence. When the search period begins, the evaluator will note the starting time and contact the WILMA or their designee that the test has begun. The evaluator shall stay with the dog team throughout the test. Upon specific requests from the handler, evaluators may give opinions about such items as boundary landmark definitions and may perform a few simple support tasks, such as providing an occasional UTM coordinate. These requests shall be noted in the evaluation but will not be held against the team unless the requests are deemed excessive. Evaluators shall not provide continuous assistance, as might be expected on a real mission. The evaluator shall not perform support tasks that would prevent continuous observation of the team and shall not assume responsibilities such as keeping the team within bounds or ensuring coverage of the area. The evaluator shall record the track of the search team for comparison against the track of the source setter.
When the evaluation is completed, the evaluator will contact the WILMA or their designee that the evaluation is over. This is necessary to ensure that the team and evaluator are safely out of the field and back to their vehicles. In the event that the evaluator determines that an unsafe situation exists anytime during the test, the evaluator will cancel the MRE and end the evaluation as described above. The evaluator issues their report, with their evaluation of the criteria described in section VII, to the WILMA no later than four days after the evaluation date.
VI. Handler Requirements
1. Handler prerequisites - Prior to scheduling, the handler must present the WILMA with proof of a consistent history of wilderness cadaver training. This proof may take the form of training logs, mentor verification, or other records.
2. Handler responsibilities - The handler will determine a suitable search strategy for the conditions, based on factors such as wind, terrain, and temperature changes. The handler will brief the evaluator prior to the start of the search period and, throughout the test, is responsible for keeping the evaluator updated on changing search strategies and the reading of the dog. In particular, the handler will notify the evaluator when their dog has done a refind (if applicable) and alerted. Handlers will not prompt their dogs for an alert. If the dog is trained to perform a refind, the handler will also not call their dog away from the source or otherwise prompt their dog to start performing their refind. If the dog primarily trails or tracks the source material setter's path to the source material, a new test must be scheduled, as the dog did not demonstrate its wilderness cadaver ability. The handler is also responsible for knowing where their dog has been, the area the team has covered, and providing the debriefing information (see section VII). In the event that the handler determines that an unsafe situation exists anytime during the evaluation, the handler may ask the evaluator to cancel the MRE.
VII. Criteria for Evaluating the Test
Below is a list of criteria against which the team's performance will be evaluated. The evaluator assesses the dog/handler team on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being poor and 5 being superior. The Board uses this evaluation in making a final pass/fail decision for the team.
Handler misreading of an actual alert as a false alert or the converse will be heavily weighted against the team. A team will not be penalized if the dog finds the decoy(s) in the area as long as the dog does not perform their indicated alert on material other than the cadaver source material.
Evaluation criteria include the handler's ability to
a) maintain safety of humans and canine,
b) form an appropriate search strategy for working the area (assessing wind, terrain and other appropriate factors),
c) change the search plan as necessary to account for changes in conditions, such as wind, terrain, and/or temperature,
d) ensure that the dog adequately works the search area,
e) know the team's coverage of the search area, including identifying areas that were not covered, and estimate the probability of detection,
f) recognize the dog's alert (or a false alert) and indicate the alert to the evaluator,
g) receive an alert from the dog without prompting the dog,
h) recognize their dog's needs and have appropriate concern for their dog's comfort and safety.
Evaluation criteria also include the dog's ability to
a) work an area,
b) take direction as needed,
c) work as long as asked,
d) not hesitate to go in to the source material,
e) alert in a readable manner to the handler,
f) find and alert on the source material, without false alerts and making refinds, if applicable,
g) show no aggression,
h) work in wilderness cadaver air scent manner (not primarily track / trail).