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Sheriff's Office K-9 furthering training

Matrix, the newest canine addition at the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, will soon be certified to be utilized for drug-sniffing purposes and patrol duty.

Matrix and his handler, Deputy Bruce Mastin, are currently in their third week of patrol training school which is held in Grand Island. Matrix, a Belgian Malinois, arrived in Fremont from an Alabama dog broker who specializes in handling dogs specifically bred to serve on K-9 Units.

Following his Sept. 7 arrival, Matrix and Deputy Brie Frank – his original handler — attended their first day of narcotics training school on Sept. 11. The duo completed the majority of the 7-week-long course before handling duties were taken over by Mastin.

For the next four weeks – three weeks have already been completed – Mastin and Matrix will work on forging their bond while getting acclimated with the ins and outs of drug detection and patrol training.

“Matrix already knows all of the odors and everything (relating to narcotics), now we are really working on my handling – it’s a lot about us working together now,” Mastin said during a Monday interview with the Tribune.

Prior to Matrix’s arrival, the DCSO relied on Brody, a German Shepard, to help detect narcotics in vehicles, homes and other places. Brody left the department in June when his handler left the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Steve Hespen said.

Brody was certified to act as a narcotics dog and patrol dog for one year of service, however, he was unable to become recertified as a patrol dog. Hespen explained that the patrol aspect of certification is more rigorous than narcotics, because the dog has to have a full grasp of how it should react during a given situation.

“Brody was duel-certified for one year and then couldn’t pass the patrol training, but he was able to maintain his narcotics certification,” Hespen said. “So he then served as a single-purpose dog.”

Having a duel-purpose dog in Matrix will benefit the department.

“What they are working on right now this week at the academy is tracking, which is vital for obvious reasons – lost people, children wandering off or somebody fleeing,” Hespen said. “We can track those individuals and suspects who flee from a stop or any other type of situation.

“On the patrol side its detention/apprehension and we can use a patrol dog in business searches, alarm calls if we feel somebody could be in the building; and the dog is trained to detect people and then detain and apprehend.”

It’s vital for the dog to understand and act appropriately to the variety of situations that it could encounter.

“The patrol part is more extensive than the narcotics because it has to be trained to recognize the difference between a passive individual and one that is aggressive and resisting,” Hespen said. “If he finds someone and that person is not resisting he will detain them, and if they flee he will be used in an apprehension mode.”

Mastin has been in law enforcement since 2014 and served with the DCSO since February 2017. Mastin said that he has always wanted the opportunity to handle a K-9 Unit.

“I’ve had hunting dogs that I’ve trained and stuff like that, and this is another tool that we can use to help us in many ways,” he said. “And just with some of my background this will be a good fit.”

With that being said, though, this type of training is vastly different than anything that Mastin has been accustomed to.

“It is a totally different style of training and the relationship I have with Matrix is a good relationship, but you have to be a little more conscious since he is a patrol base dog,” Mastin said.

Matrix lives with Mastin, and even when off duty a fine line has be walked in terms of their relationship. The rules don’t change just because the dog isn’t on the clock.

“With a hunting dog every now and again you can let them get away with something and it isn’t really detrimental,” he said. “With a patrol dog they can’t get away with anything because it can be the difference between having a good ending and a bad ending in a situation.”

Mastin and Matrix will patrol in a special vehicle designed specifically for the unit. On his belt, Mastin carries a deployment button enabling Matrix to be released from his kennel and vehicle if the time calls for it.

It’s a new sort of partnership, but it’s one that should prove to be positive.

“Before we had a narcotics dog, but we really didn’t have a patrol dog, so we would have to call the (Nebraska) State Patrol and wait for them when people would run or something,” Mastin said. “Now we will be ready and have him there in 15-20 minutes even if I’m not on duty. So it will benefit everybody … I would say that we are right on track with where we need to be, he is doing a great job with everything we are asking of him now.”

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Foundation honors commitment to philanthropy at annual dinner

Since its inception, the Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) has been a community leader in improving quality of life across the Fremont area through a variety of philanthropic endeavors.

Since 1980, FACF has connected donor interests with community needs to provide over $20 million in grants focused on five interest areas including arts and culture, civic improvements, education, health, recreation and social services throughout the community.

Each year the FACF celebrates their philanthropic work throughout the year and honors individuals who have shown commitment to improving quality of life at the Fremont Area Community Foundation Annual Dinner.

“It is just an opportunity for us to celebrate philanthropy and thank the many friends of the foundation,” Melissa Diers, executive director of FACF, said.

Next week, the Foundation will once again celebrate philanthropy as they host this year’s annual dinner at the Fremont Golf Club on Tuesday, November 21st at 6 p.m.

The dinner will include a keynote address from Senator Ben Sasse, who will return to Fremont as the Senate breaks for Thanksgiving recess.

“We are happy to welcome Ben back home for his Thanksgiving break,” Diers said. “We are looking forward to his message because he has all kinds of experience and insights when it comes to how philanthropy is an important part of a healthy community, having served as past president of Midland and being philanthropic himself.”

Along with looking back at the work done by the Foundation over the past year, the event will also recognize several individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty in regard to making Fremont a better place for everybody.

One of those individuals is Loren Nothwehr, who will be honored with the Betsy Mulliken Award for Philanthropy for his many years of service to the community.

“He is a retiree who basically has made volunteering his primary pastime since he retired,” Diers said. “He does work as a non-profit volunteer, and he also helped organize and start Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity, Care Corps Family Services, and Rebuilding Together so he is just well deserving of the honor.”

The annual dinner also provides an opportunity for FACF to recognize an individual with the Professional Advisor of the Year Award.

This year, that honor will be given Paul Johnson.

“He is a past president of the foundation board and he has been a professional advisor in the Fremont area for many years,” Diers said. “Just again a wonderful commitment to community, he served on our board for many years and various committees even after his term on our board. He is one of the many individuals who really connect clients with opportunities to provide for charity through their annual giving and estate plans.”

The dinner also affords FACF with the opportunity to honor retiring board members and recognize incoming board members.

Retiring board members that will be honored at the dinner include Barbara Christensen, Todd Hansen, Christine Leech, and Ron Kortan while new members include The Rev. Scott Jensen, Cheryl Lamme, Donna Meismer, and Mark Prince.

Those interested in attending the dinner can register for the event until November 16th and can do so by either calling FACF at 402-721-4252 or by visiting their website at The cost to attend the event is $35 per person, or $300 to reserve a table for eight people.

The dinner will include a combination meal of pot roast and chicken Kiev provided by the Fremont Golf Club. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour, with dinner served at 6:45 pm. followed shortly by speakers and award ceremonies.

Sam Pimper / Sam Pimper/Fremont Tribune  

A sizable crowd gathers during the Fremont Area Community Foundation Annual Dinner held at Fremont Golf Club in 2016. This year’s dinner is set for Tuesday, November 21st.

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CD sale proceeds to benefit memorial

Mike Semrad was at Fort Hood, Texas, when he got the news.

A fighter pilot and one of his best friends, 1st Lt. Michael Klingner, had been shot down.

Like so many others who lost friends and loved ones during the Vietnam War, Semrad was devastated.

Decades later, Semrad has produced a CD of Vietnam era songs.

Proceeds from the sale of these CDs will go toward maintenance and improvement of the Fremont, Dodge County Vietnam Veterans Perpetual Living Memorial in Clemmons Park.

The CD called, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” is dedicated to all Vietnam War veterans. It costs $10.

“I interviewed about 20 Vietnam veterans who were in country and asked them for their favorite songs from that time,” he said.

The result is a CD that includes songs such as: “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” It also includes Billy Joel’s “Good Night Saigon” with real sounds of helicopters flown during the Vietnam War.

Semrad said the CD was developed because Al Martinez of Fremont with the Disabled American Veterans, asked him to do a music project with proceeds going to the memorial.

The memorial includes a gazebo with the names of people from Fremont and Dodge County who were killed in Vietnam. It also has a large flag pole and a plaque with their names and dates of service.

Semrad – himself a veteran—said the CD was produced at no expense. A mini grant through the Fremont Area Community Foundation took care of song writing credits and production.

That way, all proceeds can go toward the memorial. A number of Vietnam veterans sang the songs on the CD for no compensation.

“Jerry Stingley and I have a band called Pink Stingray and he and I both sang on the CD along with Vietnam veterans and other musicians,” Semrad said.

Singers include Bob Letheby and Larry Downey, both Vietnam veterans, Stingley’s son Wes and former Fremonter Chris Moluf.

The CDS are available by contacting Semrad through Facebook or his email at or phone 402-720-4554.

Two CD release parties also are planned and the public is invited. The first will be from 4-7 p.m. Sunday at Tin Lizzy Tavern, 1682 E. 23rd St., in Fremont.

The second will be 4-7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Doe’s Place, 148 N. Main St., in Fremont.

Pink Stingray will play songs from the CD at both parties.

“I will be contacting all regional veterans offices such as the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and American Legion and inviting them to each of the CD release parties,” Semrad said.

Through the mail, CDs may be purchased for $14, which includes shipping and handling. Checks should be made out to Mike Semrad and sent to 2132 N. Clarmar Ave., Fremont, NE 68025.

For Semrad, the CD is a way to honor veterans and Klingner.

“We all think of him often and the CD contains many of his favorite songs,” Semrad said.

Semrad added that a CD with country music might be produced later.