Barton Gonzales, an active duty Air Force member, worked for over six years with military working dogs. Without a simple way to keep gear and equipment sanitized that didn’t break down the material, his team often used less-than-sanitary decoy suits and sleeves for training their dogs.
After seeing a Decon Zone sanitizing system at a previous duty station, Barton personally advocated for his new team to purchase Decon Zone to properly disinfect and deodorize shared gear. We sat down with Barton to hear about the challenges his team faced when it came to sanitizing their gear.
What are some of the challenges that your K9 unit faced in regards to sanitation?
Sanitation is very important when it comes to our military working dogs. They need a clean, sanitary environment to live in, just the same as we would want for ourselves. No matter if we were TDY, deployed, or stateside at our local kennels, we always have to worry about where they’d go to the restroom or how we were going to keep their equipment and toys clean.
On top of the dogs’ stuff, our own training equipment needed to be sanitized. For example, the bite suits and sleeves get pretty soiled and we needed a way to clean them without reducing the shelf life – we really needed to get the most bang for our buck out of them. Sometimes the best we could do would be to hang a suit up on a big coat rack, put it out in the sun, and hope that would take care of some of the sanitation with just fresh air and sun.
Do you feel like ineffective sanitizing measures ever made you less efficient as a unit?
It was hard to measure, but I think so. For a kennel with 10 people but only two or three suits issued at a time, sanitation became a problem. We would continuously put in requests for more safety equipment and more training equipment, but in the meantime, we would have to rotate the suits between those 10 people who all have to wear them.
At one of my duty stations in North Carolina, for instance, you’d put the gear on and just start sweating profusely for an extended period of time. And right after that, guys would come in for the next shift and put on that same jacket just a few hours later, starting the whole sweaty process over again. We did notice that some people were getting sick – and sharing gear this way didn’t help us in the long run.
How did Decon Zone make sanitizing your gear easier?
The big thing that we noticed right away was that the odor of the bite suits’ jackets and sleeves significantly decreased, and we were able to feel a difference in the material. The sleeves especially were important because not only are you sweating through the suit, but the dog is constantly biting it and saturating it – which is pretty gross.
Once we got the Decon Zone it was really great. Nobody wants to hop out of the shower and put on dirty clothes. You want clean clothes the same way we want to put on clean equipment. And again, it goes back to extending the shelf life of the equipment that is there for the safety of both the dog teams and the folks that are training them.
What would you say is the number one benefit of using Decon Zone?
The number one benefit that I noticed overall is Decon Zone sanitizes your equipment and it does it efficiently. It’s easy to throw gear into the system, and hang it up. It also serves multiple purposes. For example, it can sanitize canine equipment but also military members are able to sanitize our personal equipment like training vests, plate carriers, and helmets safely in the machine.
What advice would you give other law enforcement or military members who struggle with keeping their gear clean?
Just from a personal standpoint, don’t give up on finding a better way, or trying to make something more efficient. I was fortunate enough to see a Decon Zone at one of my previous duty stations, and then when I went to a new duty station, I had to do my research to get one since we only have so much money to spend.
If possible, get a demonstration to really sell your leadership on how it’s worth it. Instead of just sending emails up the chain, show them data, statistics, and percentages about the advantages of purchasing Decon Zone in the long run. Because my biggest piece of advice for folks would be to purchase one of these.