In his mid-20s, Christopher Gillespie’s love of travel and adventure prompted him to enlist in the U.S. military. “My buddy was joining the Navy and although I never thought of joining the service before, I decided it was a great way to serve my country, see the world and propel a solid career,” explains Christopher. He was right.
He swiftly proved himself worthy, earning the post of master helmsman and the enormous responsibility of steering a massive warship. Becoming a master helmsman requires hundreds of hours of in-class and behind-the-wheel training. Under the direction of a Naval Officer, Christopher took the wheel for many challenging evolutions, including dangerous replenishment-at-sea maneuvers and transiting the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important strait between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. He received the well-earned distinction of Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, reflecting a high level of professional performance.
Christopher and Rascal
Christopher returned home following three and a half years of service and the adventure bug bit again prompting a summer cross-country road trip. He landed in Washington state and fell in love with its rich natural beauty. He decided to stay. “Six months later, I landed a dream job,” he says with a big smile. That job is an Explosive Detection Canine Handler with MSA Security®, An Allied Universal® Company. Christopher recalls his first day of MSA’s Canine Detection Training Program at the company’s state-of-the-art training facility in Windsor, CT, and the moment he was paired with his three-year-old yellow Labrador partner, Rascal. “We had a solid connection right from the start. I don’t think there was a better fit for me. Rascal is the perfect partner and I am so grateful,” he says.
MSA recruits handers with military or law enforcement backgrounds to ensure real-world experience in identifying and mitigating security threats. All teams are single-purpose, single-handler, reinforcing an effective working relationship and strong bond. “We have an incredible level of trust in this partnership. Rascal and I work in a fast-paced environment. We pivot to various areas of need within our client’s organization depending on the day. The settings can be new, unique and challenging, yet that never impacts Rascal and her ability to do the job. She knows I am right on the end of that leash. That gives us both confidence,” says Christopher.
For their current deployment, the duo operates undercover with Christopher in plain clothes. This presents unique challenges that may be different than uniformed teams performing security sweeps. “The communication between us needs to be covert,” explains Christopher. “No obvious hand signals, verbal cues or tell-tale security actions. We’re required to blend into the landscape, observe, detect and mitigate a wide variety of potential threat circumstances … always on our toes with eyes and nose open.” Thanks to their incredible working relationship, the pair is successful in their mission, keeping the client’s personnel and property safe from high-consequence explosive threats.