[Editor’s note: this is the third in a 3-part series on military working dogs]
The 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog team goes to a 45-day training course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., before a deployment. The team performs MWD training then works with the other security forces members for combined training.
“Our main priority while deployed is detection,” said Staff Sgt. Jessie Johnson, 56th SFS MWD handler. “We perform outdoor and open area searches, and buried aides and mass odor detections, which are things we will see downrange.”
MWD teams will work heavily on their communication during training.
“Being the only K-9 handler of the group and having a whole team behind you, the unit needs to work on how to communicate, and how to interact with the dog,” Johnson said.
Deployment tasks vary depending on what an MWD team is tasked to do. They may receive a Joint Expeditionary Tasking order where the pair will be assigned to an infantry unit to clear routes of explosives.
The handlers and dogs travel together to the deployed location.
Staff Sgt. Steven Bruner, 56th SFS MWD kennel master, and Chrach, 56th SFS MWD, deployed with an Army Special Forces unit on their last deployment to Afghanistan.
“It was different from my previous deployment because I had never been attached to a special-forces unit,” he said. “Being the only handler at the post, I was tasked to go on several missions with my unit. Having Chrach there allowed the unit to clear out areas they couldn’t go to before because they didn’t have a MWD with them.”
Bruner and Chrach received a Bronze Star Medal for actions during their deployment including locating four separate improvised explosive devices totaling more than 150 pounds, and recovering 50 blasting caps that could have been used to make IEDs.
Being deployed to Afghanistan has made Bruner more aware of how dangerous his job is and the importance of a MWD team.
“I responded to a vehicle that was blown up and had four personnel in there killed during the explosion,” he said. “There was a secondary IED set up to get any other personnel who would come to help those in the vehicle. By having the dog out there, he was able to find the secondary IED and save lives.”
Bruner and Johnson have come back from deployments with more than just a better understanding of their job.
“Deployments are probably one of the most bonding experiences an MWD team can have,” Johnson said. “There wasn’t more than two hours a day I wasn’t with my dog. I needed him to protect myself and the team, and he needed me to take care of his daily needs.”