On a recent patrol sweep of a west coast hospital emergency department, MSA Security® Canine Handler Michael Garcia noticed an unattended backpack. Immediately, he and his German Shepherd partner, Drago, approached the bag for a search and cleared the suspicious item within seconds. The team is a valuable addition to the hospital’s layered security plan and a proactive response to the rise in violence, particularly active shooter incidents, across our nation’s hospital campuses.
As a Firearms Detection Canine Team, Mike and Drago are among MSA Security’s more than 850 Canine Detection Teams deployed throughout the globe. They are also a company forerunner in addressing the unique security needs of healthcare campuses, patrolling various areas of the hospital to deter and detect firearms or explosive devices.
“Our top priority each day is to help mitigate risk and provide a safe environment for hospital staff, patients and visitors,” explains Mike.
It is a mission that Mike embraced for several years as part of the hospital’s security team prior to
joining MSA. When MSA began searching for a handler to assume this deployment, Mike jumped at the opportunity to interview. His experience and familiarity with the facility and personnel made him a solid choice. “I am very fortunate to have this chance to expand my security role within the hospital and could not ask for a better partner,” says Mike. “Drago is a 19-month-old powerhouse with terrific energy, a keen sense of smell and an eagerness to get to work.”
All MSA canines receive world-class training prior to field deployment at one of the company’s 10 regional ATF-licensed training sites throughout the country. Following training in explosives detection, Mike and Drago received comprehensive firearms imprintation and training in Pennsylvania with MSA partner, Shallow Creek Kennels. Like all MSA handlers, Mike delivers daily sustainment training to his canine. While rewards are different depending on the breed, for German Shepherds like Drago, a tennis ball to play with is serious motivation.
MSA Security canine handlers carry either law enforcement or military experience. As a U.S. Marine Corps Military Police Officer for five years, Mike performed military law enforcement duties to maintain good order and discipline, and support a wide variety of security requirements. Reflecting on his service in San Diego and Japan, he is grateful and believes that many of the skills he learned during that time serve him well today in his high-consequence security role. “I joined the military with my best friend. Although over time, our jobs took us in different directions, I met and served alongside so many cool people from different backgrounds and cultures. I learned quickly how to assimilate, collaborate and build trust with people – many of whom I just met – to successfully address collective goals and missions,” he explains.
Mike drew on those lessons when forming a partnership with Drago. Meeting for the first time just a few months ago, Mike’s first goal was to establish a trusting partnership built on a common work ethic and an ability to be patient. “For a young dog, Drago is very mature, deliberate and disciplined. He knows his role and takes it seriously. It makes him great at what he does,” he says.
While Drago is all business on the job, it is a different story at home where he is always ready for some fun with the family’s three other German Shepherds who will each turn five years old this year. “It is a full house for sure,” says Mike with a smile. In their downtime, Mike, his girlfriend, Karla, her son, Aidan, and four dogs relish time outdoors and a game of catch in the California sunshine. “My grandparents had a German Shepherd when I was young and then in the military, I saw firsthand the loyalty and work ethic of this breed. I fell in love with them,” he says.
Mike with his family and four dogs, left to right: Kiké, Whiskey, Xena and Drago
Learn more about MSA Firearms Detection Canines.