Friday, February 24, 2012

Military Working Dogs Train for Success


509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Whiteman Air Force Base
Story by Senior Airman Nicholas Wilson

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Originating from “The Story of Old Drum”, written after the Civil War in Warrensburg, Mo., it’s been said that, “A dog is man’s best friend.”

Effective communication, training and hard work is required for a bond to form between a canine and its handler. Additionally, extra time and effort is needed to help prepare the dogs for real-world scenarios through various exercises.

“We want to make them better dogs, so from day one handlers train with their dog every day,” said Tech. Sgt. John Flores, 509th SFS MWD handler.

“We’re not going to just come to work, do our standard job and go home,” said Staff Sgt. James Swann, 509th SFS MWD handler. “We have to put in a lot of overtime which can be demanding.”

The primary mission for MWDs is to provide protection capabilities for the personnel and resources on base.

“Military working dogs are another weapon and tool for the airmen to use,” Flores said. “When properly used, the dogs can assist in providing base security and deterring things from happening.”

Prior to arrival at Whiteman Air Force Base, the German Shepherds and Belgian Malanois are initially trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, when they are one- to-two years old.

“As soon as we get them, we put them in our program and continue their training,” Flores said. “We look at their capabilities and what we need them to do and go from there.”

To ensure the MWDs are up to date, training is done daily and monthly by canines and their handlers.

“We evaluate obedience and different areas that could be a distraction and develop basic commands for them so that they are comfortable with it,” Swann said. “We’ll teach them a task, they’ll learn the task and then we integrate different things each time to make them proficient every time they do it.”

Some of the tasks MWDs are taught include daily random sweeps at various locations on base so the dogs are able to act in response to real-world threats when they happen.

Since a dog’s scent, sight and sound are far greater than that of a human being, the MWDs play a vital role in the overall mission of 509th SFS; which is to safeguard all personnel and assets on base.

Even though handlers put in overtime and ensure their dogs are trained, healthy and ready for action, they are still proud to say they are dog handlers in the world’s greatest Air Force.

“When you enjoy your job it doesn’t matter if you come in during your off time because it is rewarding to see your dog improving,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Dye, 509th SFS MWD handler.

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