K-9: Keeping up on Certs

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Air Force photograph by Senior Airman James Hensley

Staff Sgt. Kyle Quigg, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, teases Wax, 56th SFS MWD, with a toy Jan. 6, 2017, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The handlers use a reward system for the dogs to encourage the dogs to search for whatever the mission demands.

Most emergency services require some form of certification prior to being able to go out and save lives. This includes police, fire and medical services but most people don’t think about the certifications that K-9 are required to have.

“The certification process is done annually or when there is a change of Mission Support Group commander,” said Staff Sgt. Kurtis Buchawiecki, 56th Security Forces Squadron kennel master at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. “It is to confirm a dog’s capability to detect an odor whether it’s explosives or narcotics. We must ensure our MWD are proficient and are capable in our commander’s eyes.”

This certification can impact a dog and their handler’s future depending on how the certification goes.

“As a team component this training makes sure that the handler and the dog are proficient. As a team, this certification training component makes sure our handlers and MWD are proficient in their duties,” said Buchawiecki. “Without a proficient dog team you cannot respond to bomb threats, find narcotics, or people who may be bringing them in.”

Col. Robert Sylvester, 56th Mission Support Group commander, greets Ffrida, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, after she completed her first detection skills certification Jan. 6, 2017, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Sylvester was there to see how the military working dog handlers evaluate each other on their skills.

The certifications are just another part of their training and bring both the handler and MWD closer as a team.

“We have to do intensive training,” Buchawiecki said. “If it’s an explosives or narcotics MWD, we’ll go hide them and basically play out a hide-and-seek scenario. We check to see if the dog can alert on the explosives and the handler can identify the change in the dog.”

The kennel master oversees the MWD handlers in the certification process and advanced training to ensure they work together as a team.

Ffrida, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, lays down and waits for a command from her handler Jan. 6, 2017, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. For Ffrida, this was her first detection skills certification to qualify her as a military working dog.

“This training is to improve the handler and MWD relationship improve searching patterns and the handler’s capability,” said Staff Sgt. Markeith Wimbush, 56th SFS MWD handler. “It gets challenging because the explosives or narcotics could be hidden in the ceiling or five feet under the ground. It gets you into the mindset to think outside the box with the things you see.”

The MWD handlers and their MWD partners continue to train for deployments, temporary duties and secret service.
 

Senior Airman Jessica Reyes, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Ffrida, 56th SFS MWD, search a warehouse for their detection skills certification Jan. 6, 2017, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. This was Reyes’ and Ffrida’s first certification.

 

Senior Airman Jessica Reyes, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, plays with Ffrida, 56th SFS MWD, before their certification evaluation Jan. 6, 2017, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Handlers and their dogs need to build trust by having a good rapport between one another making them more effective.