Ken Collins and his Explosive Detection Canine, Dryden are an essential team here at MSA. Kendall is one of our Field Supervisors for EDC Operations. Dryden, his yellow lab, is a skilled bomb dog with years of experience. Although the team is stationed out of our headquarters in New York City, they do plenty of traveling. Since the partnership began two years ago, Ken and Dryden have traveled over 36,000 miles, attended two Super Bowls, 45 NFL games, and have provided security sweeps to music festivals on four occasions.
Before Dryden came to us at MSA, she was enrolled in a program called Puppies Behind Bars. This program allows inmates with good behavior to begin socializing dogs before they start their guide dog or detection programs. MSA and Puppies Behind Bars quickly determined that Dryden would be the right fit for explosive detection work. MSA scooped her up and she attended our training program at our facility in Windsor, CT. Here, MSA canines undergo training for a variety of different explosive detection sweeps such as vehicles, buildings, crowds, cargo, public transit, and luggage. When a dog detects an explosive odor, whether military grade or homemade, they alert their handler by siting passively. Canines are then rewarded for a find. The rewards can vary for different breeds. As a highly food motivated Labrador, Dryden receives a food reward. In her final weeks of training, Dryden was introduced to her handler, Ken.
Ken’s journey prior to MSA is pretty remarkable. Ken grew up in the south as a kid. He lived in Savannah, Georgia and West Palm Beach, Florida where his family owned a scuba diving business. He began diving when he was 8 years old and eventually became SSI Certified. Ken has been scuba diving at various sites around the world, reaching depths as great as 200 feet. Growing up Ken also raced motocross. Ken raced in the 125cc class and eventually worked his way up to getting a local sponsor. Although Ken could have taken over the family business and continued his adventurous lifestyle, he was motivated to serve his country.
In 1983, Ken enlisted in the Army as a tank crew member in the 50th Armor Division where he served until 1987. In 1988, Ken reached one of his biggest milestones when he graduated from the New Jersey State Police Academy while also earning his Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Seton Hall that same year. After the Police Academy, Ken became an officer in Washington Township, NJ serving for the next 21 years. He conducted over 2,000 criminal investigations, worked in the K9 Unit for 11 years, and saved 8 lives over the course of his career. From 2007 to 2012, Ken returned to the military. He joined the NJ National Guard and was in the 328th Military Police Company. He did a tour to Baghdad, Iraq where he was a mentor and trainer for the Iraqi Police force. By the end of his career in the military, Ken had worked his way up to a Corporal.
Though Ken’s law enforcement and military careers were extremely rewarding, he still faced some difficult obstacles along the way. When the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, Ken was a one of the first responders from his police department, deployed the day following the event. Unfortunately, years later, Ken began facing health complications due to the debris that was in the air. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 tongue cancer and given a 15% chance of survival. In 2010, he underwent a successful surgery to remove the cancer and pulled through. Today, Ken is happy to say he is in 7 years’ remission.
These days, the team is still with MSA, keeping our clients and the public safe. To keep Dryden’s senses sharp, Ken created a training course in the basement of his home where him and Dryden do daily routine training exercises. When the two finally get some down time, Ken takes the chance to spend time with his new three-month old grandson. As for Dryden, she can be found hanging out at home with Ken’s two beagles. This duo is a team with an incredible story, and MSA is proud to say they’re a part of our organization.