K-9 units train to protect

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha E. Stannard
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
They rise above the ranks of Fido, Hooch and even Lassie as military working dogs are trained to defend military installations all over the world protecting countless numbers of lives and materials with the guidance of their handlers.

"As handlers we're doing the best we can to keep everybody safe," said Staff Sgt. Shawn Ryan, 92nd Security Forces Squadron military dog handler.

In order for these military working dogs to search, patrol and sniff out hazards such as explosives, drugs, dangerous chemicals, weapons and enemies at any base they must be proficient in their training. Base kennel masters like Fairchild Air Forces Base's Staff Sgt. Gerald Martinez and Staff Sgt. Jose Cadena are in charge of making sure the K-9s attached get the training needed.

"We have to do so much with the dogs each month to keep them proficient," Martinez said.

Kennel masters and handlers with the 92nd SFS take the dogs to perform the following tasks monthly:

· Hit odor in which the dogs sniff for dangers to the base
· Shoot blank ammunition so the dogs are familiar with the noise
· Perform three bite in which the working dog chases down a suspect
· Scouting in which the dogs use all senses to search for a suspect
· Vehicle patrols

Along with these tasks, handlers also take them through the obstacle course and train them in basic obedience daily.

During these training exercises, handlers and kennel masters keep a watchful eye to ensure the dogs have no deficiencies.

"If the dogs aren't finding odors as kennel masters we'll step up and suggest different methods to the handlers," Martinez said. "We'll present them with different searching techniques ."

All this training comes into play once the real work begins.

"We search all large vehicles coming into our installation," said Cadena. "As handlers we make sure the dogs check all the areas of these vehicles for hazards to the base."

Training like this also keeps the dogs ready for any scenario whether at home station or deployed in which case they're attached to joint service units.

When Martinez deployed to Afghanistan with Lucky, a military working dog, they found a bomb that was going to be attached to a generator on base and when Cadena recently deployed to Afghanistan he and Dakota, a military working dog, searched for high-value targets off the compound during which they encountered many Improvised Explosive Devices.

"We were out and supposed to do a raid overnight, but we barely made it because IEDs kept popping off, so we stopped the whole mission because the place we were going would most likely be rigged with them," Cadena said.

Missions like this in any arena make it essential to have trust in wingmen--two legged or four. These handlers may not even deploy with the dog they work with at home station, so it's up to all handlers to make sure the dogs are ready to serve with anyone among the ranks of the military working dog units.

"It's all the dogs-- and their ability," Ryan said. They're our partners. Instead of a person we have a dog. You work with your dog everyday and gain that companionship. "