K-9 trains to fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The sun is hot on the handler’s back, his Kevlar digs into his skin and his uniform is drenched in sweat. The handler scans the horizon as he sends his K-9 companion back and forth across the long stretch of dirt road, they are searching for anything to indicate a bomb is buried just beneath the road’s surface.

It’s May in the state of Washington and the temperature is sitting at a stale 78 degrees. The 92nd Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog handlers are training for deployment.

“It takes a lot of hard work and long hours in the elements to prepare for deployment,” said Senior Airman Kyle Wentz, 92nd SFS MWD handler. “The trainers’ job is to make sure we are ready the moment our boots hit the ground.”

These long hours of rigorous training involve acclimating both the handler and K-9 to various environments, stimulants and stressful situations that best simulate deployed locations around the world.

MWD focuses on detection of explosives and narcotics and deterrence of individuals at home, in training and while deployed. When training, the unit conducts detection sweeps of roadways and villages, ruck marches with simulated explosives and gunfire and challenging physical training in order to prevent injury.

When deployed, the handler is not only carrying more than 50 pounds of their own equipment, they are carrying their K-9’s equipment and at times, their K-9. A dog’s stamina will be tested when for hours on end, they sweep for explosives in 100 degree weather.

“All the training we do mentally and physically prepares us for the increased workloads of deployments,” Wentz said. “It is crucial for the handler and K-9 to be prepared in every situation to ensure they carry out their responsibility.”

As a 92nd SFS MWD trainer, Staff Sgt. Kyle Shy looks for a strong and committed mentality when seeking handlers.

“Many people think working with MWDs everyday would be great, but that’s not always the case,” Shy said. “There are days when the K-9s are stubborn, difficult and lazy; those days the handlers really need a positive and contagious attitude to motivate their dog.”

In addition to being mentally and physically prepared for a deployment, creating trust between handler and K-9 is extremely important.

“During deployment training the relationship between the dog and handler becomes an extremely strong bond,” said Staff. Sgt. Brian Brady, 92nd SFS MWD handler. “You both are going through high stress situations together and learning how to work as a team in new environments.”

Many of the handlers have only been with their K-9s a short time and are constantly working on improving their working relationship.

“The rapport between MWD Brenda and I has definitely increased since the start of the rucks and deployment training,” Wentz said. “It helps build trust and an unbreakable bond, two things that allow us to work better in every situation.”

The importance of deployment training for handlers and MWDs is crucial to the success of the team and the unit with which they deploy with. The mission of each MWD team varies on location, on the dog and the Department of Defense unit they are paired with.

“MWD teams not only give the base detection presence, they also provide a psychological deterrent,” Shy said. “Whether deployed or stateside, the importance of the MWD cannot be stressed enough.”