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Fairchild dog handler returns after nearly 30 years

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- David Adams and his Sentry Dog King 12M5 shortly after his arrival from technical school in June 1968. Mr. Adams was a member of the 92nd Bomb Wing Security Police Squadron from June 1968 until September 1969, when he was sent to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. (Courtesy Photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- David Adams and his Sentry Dog King 12M5 shortly after his arrival from technical school in June 1968. Mr. Adams was a member of the 92nd Bomb Wing Security Police Squadron from June 1968 until September 1969, when he was sent to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. (Courtesy Photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- After a day of touring the military working dog facilities here and putting Tico, a military working dog, through some paces on the obstacle course, Tech. Sgt. Max Talley, 92nd Security Forces Squadron kennel staff, Mr. David Adams and Tico take a break on the dog walk. Mr. Adams, a former dog handler with the 92nd Bomb Wing, was visiting Fairchild nearly 30 after he was stationed here. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Josh Chapman)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- After a day of touring the military working dog facilities here and putting Tico, a military working dog, through some paces on the obstacle course, Tech. Sgt. Max Talley, 92nd Security Forces Squadron kennel staff, Mr. David Adams and Tico take a break on the dog walk. Mr. Adams, a former dog handler with the 92nd Bomb Wing, was visiting Fairchild nearly 30 after he was stationed here. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Josh Chapman)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- David Adams watches as Tico jumps through a window obstacle at the military working dog facility here. Tech. Sgt. Max Talley, 92nd Security Forces Squadron kennel staff, coaxes Tico through the obstacle which teaches the dog how to gain entrance by jumping through an open window. 
Mr. Adams, a former dog handler with the 92nd Bomb Wing, spent the day with Sergeant Talley touring the new facilities and discussing the differences in two eras of dog handling. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Josh Chapman)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- David Adams watches as Tico jumps through a window obstacle at the military working dog facility here. Tech. Sgt. Max Talley, 92nd Security Forces Squadron kennel staff, coaxes Tico through the obstacle which teaches the dog how to gain entrance by jumping through an open window. Mr. Adams, a former dog handler with the 92nd Bomb Wing, spent the day with Sergeant Talley touring the new facilities and discussing the differences in two eras of dog handling. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Josh Chapman)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- David Adams, a former K-9 handler with the 92nd Bomb Wing, now the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, visited Fairchild Aug. 10 after almost 30 years.

Mr. Adams was a member of the 92nd Security Police Squadron here from June 1968 through September 1969, and was given the opportunity to spend the day with Tech. Sgt. Max Talley, 92nd Security Forces Squadron kennel staff.

Sergeant Talley gave Mr. Adams a tour of the base dog handling facilities, and the two had the chance to sit and talk about how dog handling has evolved over the years.

"We spent a lot of time talking about what the kennels were like in '68 and '69," said Sergeant Talley. "Mr. Adams was comparing the way the area was setup then versus the way its set up now."

"At least the kennels are on the same grounds they were 30 years ago," said Mr. Adams.

Mr. Adams is quick to identify one major difference between the K-9 units of today and those of his generation. The simple fact is that each time period trained the dogs to accomplish different missions.

During the Cold War and Vietnam eras, the major threat that concerned American forces was people getting too close to the alert areas and sabotage.

"When I graduated from dog school, the dogs were trained for sentry duty and were used only at night," said Mr. Adams. "Under ideal conditions, a sentry dog could pick up the scent of a person up to 1,000 yards away, and 250 yards in poor conditions."

Mr. Adams remembers how the threat in Vietnam and Thailand were sappers who would attack the base in teams of 12 or more at night, using stealth under the cover of darkness. Sappers were originally experts at demolishing or otherwise overcoming or bypassing fortification systems and in this case, American fortifications.

K-9s still perform perimeter patrol duty but also focus on drug and explosive detection; it all depends on the base's mission.

"The K-9 unit mission varies depending on the location and what the specific threat is," said Sergeant Talley. "We will continue to be a psychological deterrent, because people just don't know what the dogs are capable of."

Mr. Adams also said the two eras of dog handlers differ in deployment and retirement procedures for the dogs. In Vietnam, after the first wave of handlers and dogs were deployed, the dogs would remain and the handlers would return home once their tours were over.

"For those of us who worked with those dogs, it was like leaving a buddy behind with no hope of survival," he said. In contrast, the dogs and handlers of today's security forces K-9 units deploy together and return home together. This maximizes the amount of time a handler works with a dog.

"The longer a handler and dog work together, the stronger the bond between them becomes," said Mr. Adams. "It is that bond that makes for a strong and proficient K-9 team."

During his time as a dog handler, Mr. Adams had several K-9s under his control to include: Sentry Dog Rex 7A98, Patrol Dog Blackie X850, Sarge and Sentry Dog King 12M5, his very first.

"I trained King at the dog school at Lackland (Air Force Base, Texas) and brought him to Fairchild with me in 1968," he said.

In today's Air Force, security forces personnel have to put in time and dues in order to become a dog handler. That was not the case in Mr. Adams days in the Air Force; K-9 teams were in high demand, and the opportunity was only a volunteer away.

"Those assigned to the Security Police School were provided an opportunity to volunteer for K-9 while still in tech school," he said. "The volunteers would move directly from SP school to dog school."

Mr. Adams and Sergeant Talley finished the day by taking one of the K-9s through the obstacle course, one last run for old times' sake. After reminiscing over the old days and a good story about Nemo, the hero dog from Vietnam, Mr. Adams headed back home.

"I never cease to be impressed with the professionalism and pride exhibited by the men and women of the United States Air Force Security Forces and K-9 units of today," said Mr. Adams.