Christine Spigai

photo of man with a black labrador at a stadium

While Valentine’s Day is behind us, we can’t pass on sharing a feel-good love story. Meet MSA Security® canine handler Austin Sprankle and his partner Zane II. After separating for a year while Austin deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps, the pair recently reunited to resume their work as an MSA Explosive Detection Canine Team. Austin admits it was extremely hard being away from his partner for 12 months but says that the love they have for one another – and their work in sniffing out explosives – is as strong as ever.


Austin landed his dream job as a canine handler with MSA in 2021 and feels fortunate to have been paired with the four-year-old black Labrador. The two trained at MSA’s state-of-the-art training facility in Windsor, Connecticut, where bomb dogs are imprinted on all five families of commercial explosives, as well as homemade explosives (HMEs). “Zane and I connected right from the start. He is always at the top of his game. Working together that first year was everything I imagined, but when the Marines call, you answer,” he says with a smile.


All MSA canine handlers, and many of the company’s more than 900 team members, carry law enforcement and military backgrounds. U.S. Veterans Magazine recognized MSA Security as Top-Veteran Friendly Company. “My field supervisor, Stephen Blanchard, is a military veteran. He understands the call to duty and is incredibly supportive of both my career at MSA and military service,” explains Austin. In recognition of that support, Austin nominated his boss for The Patriot Award. He proudly earned this Department of Defense honor that is granted by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and recognizes unique cooperation between civilian employers and their National Guard and Reserve employees.


Austin joined the Marines in 2016 with a strong desire to serve his country, choosing the world’s finest fighting force because of its reputation as the hardest boot camp with the highest expectations. As artillery section chief with the Marines, he is responsible for maintaining, aiming and firing the Corps M777 155mm howitzer and leading a crew of eight to 10 Marines required to fire the gun. He is responsible for their safety, training and performance.


For as much as Austin enjoys serving alongside his fellow Marines, it was hard to leave his MSA partner. “Saying goodbye to Zane was truly heartbreaking. He has an incredible nose for odor and real energy for work. I knew he would be in good hands with his new MSA handler,” explains Austin. “I never expected that when I returned there would be an opportunity to work with him again – but the stars aligned. I am so grateful.”


The duo is currently managing a covert deployment in Washington state. This requiresZane them to operate undercover with Austin in plain clothes. Unlike other assignments that the team takes at sports stadiums and entertainment venues in uniform, here they need to blend into the environment to detect and mitigate any potential threats. This creates unique challenges and requires a team with a solid working relationship. It’s perfect for Austin and Zane who are consistently in sync. “We really picked up right where we left off. We innately understand each other, and can communicate without saying a word, which makes working undercover much easier,” explains Austin.


photo of 4 caninesFor as much energy as he has at work, Zane is a real homebody and Austin says he likes to give him well-deserved relaxation time. It is not always easy with a full house at home, including Austin’s wife, Sarina, their two-year-old daughter and three – count them three – furry Great Dane sisters. “Zane loves to chill out, but he has a hard time resisting the girls who are always looking for him to get in on a good game of tag in the backyard!”


To meet additional MSA Explosive and Firearms Detection Canine Teams, and for timely content from MSA’s subject matter experts, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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