The Old Dawgs & Pups organization recently visited the kennel here and presented Staff Sgt. Aaron Escalante, 355th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, with their Alpha Dog Coin.
The Alpha Dog Coin is one of the more prestigious awards presented by Old Dawgs & Pups. Escalante is only the sixteenth recipient of the award since Old Dawgs & Pups was established in 2005.
“Our latest creation is an unprecedented award program for handlers and MWD staff who we feel deserves some out of the box recognition,” said Bill Cummings, Old Dawgs & Pups Co-founder. “we created a series of unique, serial numbered challenge coins and award certificates for those Airmen who have served three or more tours downrange while enrolled in our program; who have been awarded a military decoration such as a Combat Action Medal, Purple Heart or Bronze Star, or who have accomplished some other act that we feel is specifically worthy of this extra recognition.”
Old Dawgs & Pups was created by Cummings and John Hemp, former Vietnam MWD handlers, to support the handlers in today’s military. Over the past nine years they have supported 107 deployed MWD kennels, more than 390 MWD teams and have shipped more than $92,000 worth of equipment downrange.
Escalante has been part of the organization for several years and has received tremendous support from its members during his time in Qatar and Afghanistan.
“I think it’s awesome what these old timers do for us new guys,” said Escalante. “They sponsored me while I was deployed and sent me care packages full of things I need to get the mission done.”
The MWD career field is one rooted in deep history and a strong heritage. Cummings and Hemp generation of handlers were met with hostility and animosity rather than support when they returned home from overseas, which caused them to turn their backs on the career field for years.
After more than 30 years Cummings and Hemp went to a veteran’s rally in the nation’s capital that opened their eyes. The rally was a turning point for them and they realized they needed to do what they could to support today’s MWDS and their handlers.
“We created Old Dawgs & Pups to be able to help and support our fellow handlers while they are downrange,” said Hemp. “But doing this has been helpful and almost therapeutic for us. It is a great way for us to forget the pain and negativity we had back when we returned.”