Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on military working dogs.
The bond and training starts immediately after the 56th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog handler and dog team is paired. A handler and MWD will spend countless hours training, exercising and dog grooming on a daily basis. During these activities, the bonding period is strengthened.
“I will typically spend more than nine hours a day with my dog training and building a bond,” said Senior Airman Justin Lopez, 56th SFS military working dog handler. “During the time spent together, the handlers will groom and train, and work on building a strong relationship with their MWD.”
Most of the MWDs are dual purpose, which means they perform patrol and detection work.
In detection training, the MWD will be assigned to either explosives or narcotics.
“We conduct our basic training at our kennel facility and also train at other facilities on and off base, sometimes with local K-9 police agencies,” said Staff Sgt. Jessie Johnson, 56th SFS MWD handler.
During patrol training, the handler works with his partner to perform tasks such as escorting and performing stand-offs. Escorting is when the MWD accompanies a suspect back to a vehicle as an over watch so the handler can distance himself from the suspect. Stand-off training teaches the MWD to attack and restrain a suspect then release upon the handler’s command when the suspect surrenders.
“The training helps the MWD team understand each other better and allows the handler to see the strengths and weaknesses of the dog,” Johnson said. “It’s very important for handlers to know how their MWD will act in a crowd as well as an open field.”
Handlers receive a six-month notice prior to a deployment.
The unit conducts weekly deployment training with teammates on base as well as local law enforcement. The handlers perform different in-garrison scenarios and tailor them to the unit’s deployment preparation needs.
“I believe the training and knowledge provided to me by my unit will be helpful for my deployment,” Barnes said. “Those who have deployed before me are the greatest resources to learn from because they know how to handle certain situations downrange.”