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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 9, 2024

Meet Serby, a Coast Guard K9 safeguarding Super Bowl LVIII

By : PA1 Richard Brahm, Coast Guard PADET LA/LB supervisor

It's time to do my job. I am Serby, a Coast Guard K9 at Maritime and Safety Security Team Los Angeles, and I'm working security at this year’s 2024 Super Bowl with my partner Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Ibarra.

In a world defined by our senses, I'm a silent observer, walking side-by-side with my partner as we carve a path through a sea of people. It's challenging to concentrate as faces, voices, and the undeniable allure of delectable scents vie for my attention, but I've trained for years for times just like this. My partner suddenly touches my shoulder, and with a whispered command, a familiar signal that sends a jolt of excitement through my body, I snap to attention. 

With a bond that transcends words, Serby and Ibarra forged their partnership through shared experiences, training, and unwavering trust. 

"Serby and I have an excellent relationship built on countless hours of training and conditioning over the last two and a half years, ranging from basic obedience to vertical delivery and hoisting from vessel to vessel. All of these things build and strengthen the bond between us," Ibarra proudly stated. "She is tested and regimented so that I can depend on her.”

Their journey began a long way from where they are now, in the sunny coastal town of San Pedro.

"Serby was born in March of 2019, in Belgium, before the TSA brought her to Lackland Air Force Base," explains Ibarra. "In July of 2021, I arrived at Lackland and started my initial explosive detection K9 training. That's where we met for the first time and started the familiarization process, which eventually led to imprinting on various explosive odors and the evaluations needed to graduate."

"We completed training in October of the same year and have worked together since. We have completed two yearly certifications. She has been an exceptional partner and a profound watchdog at home," Ibarra added.

For events like the Super Bowl, extensive preparations are vital. The Coast Guard collaborates closely with other law enforcement agencies, implements strict access controls, and deploys specialized teams, including K9 units. 

Members of Maritime Security Response Team West secure the grounds of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII. (DHS photos by Tia Dufour official photographer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

"As Serby's handler, if I'm not challenging her physically or mentally through obstacles, exercise, or odor training, I have failed her," states Ibarra. "We often take our K9s to locations such as Newport to acclimate them to high foot traffic areas in preparation for large-scale events. Even though we're actively working these games and concerts, exposure and training in densely populated events makes our dogs exceptional for massive events such as the Super Bowl."

Despite the challenges K9 teams like Ibarra and Serby face, their dedication to the mission remains unwavering. 

Ibarra emphasized that the dogs are often pushed to their limits for sniff time and highlighted the challenge of ensuring adequate rest, particularly in unfamiliar environments. He stressed the importance of recognizing that working dogs experience fatigue and other limitations like humans do, despite being highly trained.

“Adequate rest is harder to get when introducing an unfamiliar area to dogs. We do our best to prepare them through physical training and exercise,” Ibarra said. “But sometimes these dogs just get tired, and it's ok. People often forget that these working dogs are like us. Thankfully, we completed the training and preparation necessary to meet the task. That's why so many local, state, and federal agencies request our assistance. The Coast Guard has created a great program driven by exceptionally professional handlers in PAC and LANT area alike."

Serby and Ibarra's presence at the 2024 Super Bowl serves as a heartwarming reminder of their deep bond, expertise, and unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety of all attendees. Their commitment ensures that everyone can enjoy the event to the fullest extent, free from worry, and simply have a great time.