(PIKESVILLE, Md.)  – The Maryland State Police Special Operations Division K-9 Unit graduated five new dual purpose K-9 teams at a ceremony this morning in Carroll County.

The ceremony took place at the Maryland State Police Academy in Sykesville, Md. After 26 weeks of intense training, these unique animals are ready to help keep Maryland safe as they will serve as dual purpose K-9 teams that will be utilized for drug detection and patrol/utility work.

The class is made up of two current handlers, two new handlers from Maryland State Police and one patrol officer from the Easton Police Department. Of these five teams, three of the newly certified K-9s have each been named in honor of one of the Maryland State Police’s 43 fallen heroes.

K-9 Plank, a German shepherd, is paired with Cpl. Dana Orndorff and was named in honor of Trooper First Class Edward Plank. TFC Plank, 28, was killed on Oct. 17, 1995 when he was shot by a suspect after conducting a traffic stop on U.S. Route 13 in Princess Anne, Maryland. K-9 Plank and Cpl. Orndorff will be assigned to the Berlin Barrack.

K-9 Plank

K-9 Hunter, a Belgian malinois, is paired with Trooper First Class Shawn Brown and is named in honor of TFC Shaft Hunter. TFC Hunter, 39, who was also a member of the K-9 Unit, was killed on May 21, 2011 when his patrol car collided with the back of a tractor-trailer that was parked on the shoulder of I-95 in Howard County at approximately 2:40 a.m. It is believed that he was pursuing a speeding motorcycle when the collision occurred. K-9 Hunter and TFC Brown will be assigned to the Westminster Barrack.

K-p Hunter

K-9 Wade, a German shepherd, is paired with Trooper First Class Kyle Morrison and is named in honor of Trooper Gary Wade. ?While taking enforcement action for a traffic violation on Jan. 30, 1982, Trooper Wade, 25, was struck and killed by a motorist who ran off the roadway striking the police vehicle, the violator’s vehicle, the trooper and the violator. The incident occurred on the JFK Memorial Highway just outside of Havre de Grace, Md. K-9 Wade and TFC Morrison are assigned to the North East Barrack, the same barrack where Trooper Wade served.

K-9 Wade

The other graduates include K-9 Drake, a German shepherd, and Master Trooper James Layton, who are assigned to the Cumberland Barrack. K-9 Kato is heading to the Easton Police Department with PFC Stephen Tindall.

K-9 Drake
K-9 Kato

The Maryland State Police K-9 unit has been in operation for over nearly 60 years.  Since 1961, K-9’s have assisted law enforcement in drug detection, search and rescue missions, explosive detections and with criminal apprehensions.  The unit currently includes 33 troopers and 41 K-9s.