Lackland Dog School
 - The Early Days

The name is Vernon J Anderson, MSgt USAF Retired 1982. My Primary AFSC was T81170A Instructor Qualified Dog Handler. I started my dog handling career in 1963 with the 405th AP K9, Philippine Island as an OJT Handler. I was not formally trained until 1965 Wiesbaden Germany at the USAFE Dog Center. While working there I was encouraged by the school instructors to apply for duty as an instructor at Lackland’s USAF Sentry Dog School. 

I was accepted and reported in Oct 1966 and was immediately sent to Technical Instructors School which lasted approx 230hrs (2 months). I then reported for duty to start training dogs and handlers. The following paragraphs are some of my recollections of my tour 1966 to 1969. I worked here with old training NCO’s out of Clark and instructors from Germany. 

All classes at that time started on base down at the DOD Dog Center Area with all of the birdcage kennels. You might remember the green colored building which housed the equipment issue cage on the left side of the hallway, classroom and offices on the right side. A major part of the initial classroom training took place in the Sybil hall (I think) before the kennel time when we then brought you down to the kennels. The classroom training time allowed us to size you up checking your height, weight, personality, attitudes so that we could initially match you up with the dogs we were given for the class. 

At the kennels, you were marched into the green building and given all of your equipment: 60 inch leather leash, choke chain, leather collar, leather muzzle, 360 inch web leash and then out the back door into the kennel area. You were shown how to wrap your coke chain into a nice small tight “Blackjack” – Remember hold one ring and about halfway down grip one end of the link and the just swing the loose end over and over until the other ring was up by the other and then you the snapped into the leather lease which you had already warped up. Care and cleaning practical applications came later on with the buckets of neat’s-foot oil and a lot of finger and hand rubbing. 

NOW CAME THE TIME THAT ALL WERE WAITING FOR: (Some with less enthusiasm than others) Dog and Handler Introductions. Do you remember being taken out into the middle of the birdcages to one particular one where you where given the name of the dog and possibly some information along with “It’s yours and you will have to go in and get him/her”. “Put the choke chain on and take him or her out to the training area”. Did yours “PUCKER” up a little as you walked your dog out between all the other barking and snarling dogs and handlers with theirs? Were you one of the first or last ones to gather yourself up and take a deep breather and say to your self “ Here goes – hope like hell I don’t get bit”. 

After all students had removed their dogs from the kennels, we spent the first couple days just walking around talking to them building up our relationship and trust – still a little leery but moving on. The instructors moved in and out giving advice, encouragement, or corrections as needed. After some time you were instructed again and shown how to groom your dog and required to do it. Did you have a short hair dog or did you get one of 

the long haired ones and had hair everywhere especially if it was losing its winter coat. At the end of the day you went back to the kennels and spent sometime cleaning and raking it, changing water and I think feeding your dog. How did you feel after the first day with your dog? Ten – twenty feet tall – chest out a mile – and knowing that you were now better than any of the other Non-K9 Air Police Trainees or maybe you were still a little apprehensive about “What did I get myself into” but still willing to give it a try. 

All initial obedience training was done on base by the grooming sheds – remember those dirt “Idiot Circles” where you went round and round and round forwards and then turning around and going in the other direction. I spent a lot of time on the inside having you go this way, that way, into the center, out of the center. Heel dog, sit dog, down dog, stay dog, end of leash dog, recall dog – can you still do it in your dreams. Basic Obedience was the key to your training – building you relationships with your dog, his/her obedience to you. Grooming was an enjoyable experience for the dog, much more than it was for you. One thing you might remember IF YOU were one of the ones that needed a little extra training: THE AMMO CAN. You know leash attached to the can where you practiced “GOOD BOY – SIT” (pull up on the leash and the can sat up) or “NO HEEL” (jerk on the leash and guide the can around into the heeling position” (Bill Cummings favorite memory of dog school) 

After approx 2-3 weeks on base, you were ready to advance your training in detection and aggression (THE BITE). If you were there before the buildup at Medina you should recall the “Cattle Truck”. You know the blue canvas covered semi tractor trailer that hauled you and your dog to and from Medina Training Areas. The early 0400hrs start and back by about 1200 – 1300Hrs due to heat in summer time. 

A decision was made to use Medina as a permanent housing and training area for sentry dog training where the dogs would be moved and kept at Medina during its entire training period. So started the great buildup. We initially had to have the third high voltage fence removed for kennel placement between inter and outer fences. Canvas target cloth was strung on the fences to provide shade and block dogs view. Pea gravel was hauled in and spread to provide a better footing and living area. Shipping crates were used as housing and were placed on the inner and outer fences leaving a large walk way down the middle for personnel to move about. 

Training areas had to be created and cleared by bulldozers. As we cleaned areas, we opened up dens upon dens of rattlesnakes. The piles of cactus and brush provided cover for others things. A large area was cleared around the old white house to be used for class formations, break area, and basic obedience (cannot forget that). We eventually turned part of the classroom area into a snack bar which was run by our team – TSgt’s Homer and Gildart were in charge of it. 

I remember that the vet building sat on a small bit of a grass island in the middle of a large concrete pad. As we mowed this grass, you could hear and see chucks of snakes being cut up. Now you have to realize that these rattlesnakes were highly prized by the instructor force for use in belts and hat bands and we collected the meat for a large barbeque. Got my ass in trouble with the wife; she found out that I had snuck her electric fry pan out for use with some of the snake meat. Liked to beat me to death before she threw it out – She was deathly afraid of any snake – would not touch a magazine if it had a picture of one in it. Some of you had encounters during the night patrolling and attack training. 

Now we know that dog school was not all work – but some play time for the instructors as well – my favorite play toys were the M80 firecracker – the 105 artillery simulator, 55gallon drums, yellow observation towers, and rocks (big ones). Man they gave you ammo cans full of M80’s and simulators to use in the training and did not want any of them back. 

The creek that you had to cross each day to go up the hill to some areas had 2 deep wide openings – one off to the left and one off to the right. We would take a simulator and tape it to a big rock and then tape an M80 to it. Why would we do this you ask – well to hunt water moccasins hiding in the deep pools. Light the M80 and toss it in. When it went off, it would drive the snakes to the surface and as they swarmed about all pissed off, all you could see was a large white patch (like a kotex pad) as it had its mouth open. Up came some shot guns and results were dead snakes in water. The yellow observation towers made wonderful M80 mortars. The piping was just large enough for an M80 followed by a D cell battery. It would throw that battery a long, long way up the hill. The 55 gallon drum one day made me think “Leavenworth Here I come”. We had been dropping simulators into one barrel most of the morning and finally the barrel reached one simulator too many. When it went off, it threw the metal top up and away in the general direction where we had staked out our dogs during agitation training. All I could think of as it was coming down was “OH s--- - Please don’t let it hit any dog or student”. Got lucky – no hits and no more barrels either. So we started to blow up old rotten trees. Did any of you catch and play with the tarantulas – those things could jump a mile.

Towards the end of my tour – patrol dog training was being phased in and many old barracks buildings were being taken to Medina for use in training the patrol dog. Even though they (head shed personnel) did not like it, we used them for some of the sentry dog attack training also. Hid the suit man in the rafters – closets etc making the dog work to find him. I thought that we were very lucky in not getting anyone injured or bitten when the suit fell out of the ceilings. 

I went with TSgt Dover on one Traveling Team to train dogs at Altus AFB in Altus, Oklahoma and McCord AFB, Tacoma Washington (67-68). Our sentry dog was “Bullet” an old semi retired demo dog. He used to run the hallways in and out of classrooms at Sybil and McGuire Halls very friendly – would not bite a flea. Have you or can you relate to traveling in a VW bug with a dog in the back seat that has a VERY BAD case of gas. Its raining outside with a mixture of slushy snow where it makes it difficult to roll down the windows. Let me say, IT WAS A LONG, LONG drive from Altus to McCord. Altus was relatively a quiet normal training session with no major complications involved other that the proverbial truth the “The sidewalks rolled up at 6PM”. All clubs were private and you had to be a member to buy a drink (bought a few temp memberships). 

Those boys had the equivalent of an isolate tour. McCord – what can I say “RAIN -RAIN - RAIN”. Now remember old non biting Bullet – well here we are in about the second day of classroom instruction and Bullet has had free run for 2 days in and out of the students sitting on the floor. Suddenly as Bullet pass one kid, he bit the poor kid on the back of the neck and held on. We never could figure out why or what he did not like about him that set him off. Spent a few hours sending TTY’s back to Lackland and Bullet got to live in a cage or be muzzled for the remainder of the trip. Did a night training exercise for a few ROTC students at the University. Good exercise for our dogs and handlers – not so good for the ROTC. 

I worked with about 12 classes of students during these three years- some mostly all Navy, all Army and mixtures of Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force students from PFC’s / Basics to 2nd Lts. Have had the privilege of either meeting personally or by email contact with a few of them. Amn Davis handled Mike Class 02307, A1c Cummings (Bill) handled Duke Class 12068, SA Cornelius (Navy) handled Bowser Class 23087, Sgt Clunis (Mike) handled Bart Class 12068, PFC Adams handled Yogie Class 04617, Amn DeGuilio (Vincent) handled King Class 02108, FA Warlen (Navy) handled Rex Class 07088. 

From 1973 to 1975, I worked the other side of the Dog School. It was DET 37, DOD Dog Center – the procurement end of the program. It was our job to insure that an adequate number of dogs were always available for the class’s. We would put the dogs selected for class into the birdcages for you to pick up on that wonderful day. We kind of had pools going on who would bite the handler first. I worked as B Crew Supervisor, Control Room Supervisor, NCOIC Maintenance and as Asst Kennel master. NO DOG made any kennel moves without the permission of the Control Room Supervisor. Daily movement rosters had to be made, checked and approved. This included all vet visits as well as the class setups and general maintenance moves. Here I met Jimmy Thorton as he was assigned to me as an A2c kennel attendant. Worked here with Joe Balbo of U-Tapao History (First Wave Handler/Dogs). We had many family barbques over the three years here. Joe now live in Ft Worth area. Have had contact with Jimmy at the VDHA reunions and Lackland trips and Joe with a trip to Ft Worth area. By the time that I returned to the DOD Dog Center, Nemo had already past on to the “Rainbow Bridge” and we had the kennel pad, house and fencing. Think it was still there when I left in 1975. Never had much to do with Nemo working the training at Medina. 

Went on two (2) dog buying trips – one to San Francisco CA and one to Minneapolis MN. The California trip was quiet interesting as our vet (loved Cajun hickory coffee) was newly married and you know how devious the minds of enlisted personnel can get. We went to the bowery in San Pedro one night and got the Doc hooked up with a bar girl that was paid to give him a nice big “hickey” – We had a lot of explaining to do to his wife when we got him back home. On the Minnesota trip, I was allowed to use the rented car and drive 100 miles home to spend the weekend with my parents. With the fun also came the hard work: all days long you were taking dogs from civilians and processing them: name tags, vet checks for health, aggression test with gunfire, and if accepted tattooing, getting assigned to a crate and arranging for transportation back to Lackland. Loading the crates on the semi-trailers and sending them off to the airport. If rejected, handing them back to owners and thanking them for their effort. It was dog after dog all day long for approx one week and then back to Lackland. Made some damn good per-diem of these trips. I made one recruiting trip with about 6 other troops to Los Angeles where a dog demo was put on as a pre show for a LA Dodger’s baseball game. We were allowed to spend part of the game in the dugout – got a baseball auto graphed and carried it around for years – think its still here someplace but with faded ink. 

After the DOD Dog Center tour, I was never allowed to return to the dog kennels as a handler or kennel master. Was kept in the Supervisory ranks of the career field teaching at Camp Bullis and ending my career as Base Security Superintendent at FE Warren AFB Cheyenne WY. 

Will close these rambling of a mind that was trying to remember 40 plus years ago – some it seems like yesterday and others a long time ago in a different age. God Bless All Dog handlers and Their Families – Remember it’s the Memories – Good, Bad, Happy, Sad – always the memories 

Good Night and God Bless 

Vernon J Anderson 
MSgt USAF Retired 
Shadow 170 F – Clark AFB Philippines 63-64 
Prince 323H – Wiesbaden Germany 64-66 
Thor S497 – U-Tapao Thailand 72-73 




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