Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series on military working dogs.
What does it take to build a bond? What if the pair doesn’t speak the same language?
Members of the 56th Security Forces Squadron are able to construct a strong relationship with military working dogs after being paired as teams.
The MWD program is the use of canine senses such as smell and sight to enhance operations in a deployed environment.
The handlers will go through a 55-day course broken into two sections: patrol and detection. The MWD’s training is 120-days split into two 60-day blocks consisting of patrol and detective training, along with either narcotic or explosives training.
“The handlers learn how to give bite and obedience commands in the patrol phase,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Emmick, 56th SFS MWD handler. “In the detection stage, the handlers learn how to work with the MWDs detecting specific odors in planes, warehouses, dormitories, vehicles and other areas.”
For the MWDs, they learn the patrol and detection basics and practice them in various environments, such as warehouses, dorms, theaters, aircraft, offices and other areas. The dogs also work in environments ranging from open fields to tight quarters.
“In spite of the fact that we live in the age of exploding technological advancements, MWD teams are still the most accurate means of detecting explosives,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Bruner, 56th SFS kennel master.
For Emmick and Staff Sgt. Nofo Lilo, 56th SFS MWD handler, being a handler is what they’ve wanted to do since joining the Air Force.
“It’s a different step from the normal day-to-day law enforcement in our career field,” Lilo said. “Working at the kennels, we are dealing with an animal we don’t fully comprehend, but we have to complete certain tasks successfully. I hope working with the dogs will give me a new perspective on my military career.”
After completing training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, both handlers were paired with MWDs shortly after returning to Luke: Emmick with MWD Roy and Lilo with MWD Cito.
No one knows how long it will take for the bond to form between the handler and MWD.
“It’s up to the handler to put their full effort into the dog to receive the best outcome as a team,” said Staff Sgt. Jessie Johnson, 56th SFS MWD handler. “The handler needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of the MWD in all environments.”
For Emmick and MWD Roy, it took approximately 10 days to build their bond.
“It’s going to take awhile to learn everything about him, but we have a great bond so far,” Emmick said. “I’m looking forward to enhancing Roy as an MWD while improving our bond.”
Lilo looks to gain more than just a career broadening experience from his time as a handler.
“I believe this will help improve my problem-solving skills because the MWD and I don’t completely understand each other,” he said. “There is a communication barrier and we have to break down that barrier, be able to finish the job downrange and come home safely.”