News from the Sandbox
Page 5
Military Working Dog in Iraq

ALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq -- Senior Airman Eric Stafford and his partner, Tino, patrol a bombed out building near the perimeter of the base. Tino is trained to detect explosives and is credited with stopping two men who breached the perimeter of the base. Stafford is a military working dog handler here. He and Tino are assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Oldham) 

Military dogs help defend Iraq
by Tech. Sgt. Bob Oldham
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/28/2003   - - TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) - Hiding behind mounds of dirt or anything else his handler could find, Tino sat and waited for an intruder to breach the base’s fence on his random listening and observation post.

Suddenly, the military working dog’s ears, eyes and nose zeroed in on two men as they entered the base’s perimeter. As the men closed in, Tino stood up, fluffing up his hair and tail to make his presence known.

“You could hear them stop breathing (when they saw Tino),” said Senior Airman Eric Stafford, a military working dog handler here from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. “They knew it was over.”

The two men threw their hands in the air -- their foray onto the base was over. Stafford called for backup, and the two were hauled away. Mission complete.

In today’s Air Force, it takes a special breed of airman and dog -- German shepherd, Dutch shepherd or Belgian malinois -- to secure the perimeter of a military installation, and it is no different here.

To help security forces airmen cope with the hazards of the job, they team with military working dogs to thwart potential aggressors and keep base airmen safe to do their jobs. Stafford and Tino are just one example of that teamwork.

All of the Department of Defense’s military working dogs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Once trained, dogs are shipped to units and paired with a trained handler. The two work together at home station and temporary duty locations, as is the case with Tino and Stafford. They will separate only when the airman permanently changes duty stations.

Tino is not just a security dog, he is also trained to smell explosives or explosive-making materials. The dog and Stafford are one set of an undisclosed number of dogs and handlers here, keeping intruders and terrorist bombs out, officials said.

While both tasks are important, so is keeping military working dogs healthy. That job falls to a trained Army veterinarian technician who monitors the dogs’ health on a weekly basis, looking for signs of disease or injury.

To keep the dogs hydrated, they drink the doggie version of a human sports drink to replace lost electrolytes. They also have special equipment that works like an ice pack to help them stay cool when temperatures rise, officials said.

Military working dogs are one line of defense in a multi-layered defensive plan. The dogs serve two roles: to detect and to deter, said Tech. Sgt. Michael Silvin, the kennel master here.

Detection is manning a post, looking for bad guys, much like Tino and his handler. Deterrence comes in a couple of forms, like posting the dogs in areas visible to those entering and exiting the base and by word of mouth, such as the two intruders that Tino stopped in their tracks, he said.

“The locals talk,” Silvin said. “They know we have them, and they’re scared to death of them.”

(Story re-printed courtesy of AFNEWS - Air Force Print News )

horizontal rule


OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Donnie Wells watches as Kastor, a Belgian malinois, sniffs for any hazardous materials or explosives among cable rolls aboard a flatbed trailer. Wells and Kastor are currently assigned to the 363rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at a forward-deployed location. They are deployed from the 99th Security Forces Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis)



K-9 partners operate on vigilance, trust
by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Public Affairs

03/25/03 - OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- At base gates, military working dogs and handlers are doing their part in the war with Iraq while guarding against the threat of terrorism. 

These threats mean there are more reasons than ever to suspect that America's enemies will target its most valuable resources with explosives or hazardous materials. Air Force K-9 teams are on guard to detect such attempts.

"We ensure everything that comes on the installation is safe and doesn't jeopardize our people and our mission here," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Goll, the kennelmaster at a forward location. Goll is deployed from the 35th Security Forces Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Dogs and handlers deploy together, usually for 135 to 140 days. This predictable process was disrupted by the build-up and military action to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's regime. All the while, memories of terrorist strikes against America on Sept. 11, 2001, remain.

"The whole culture now after 9-11 in force protection is all about looking for stuff coming on the base," Goll said. Guarding against this danger has become a constant job. "We're the first ... line of defense. It's very important that our guys are vigilant and making sure that these dogs are working hard because sometimes they get tired. It's up to our handlers to keep them going.

"A good handler -- and all of our handlers are good -- can motivate a dog to work past (its) threshold. There are so many ways to hide things in vehicles; a trained eye can only find so much. That's the biggest thing (the dogs) provide."

The two primary breeds of working dogs used in the Air Force are German shepherds and Belgian malinois which are similar in appearance, Goll said. Handlers have to take precautions to keep the dogs working at peak performance in temperatures that can reach 120 degrees. The dogs work inside climate-controlled search areas whenever possible, Goll said. Patrols, however, may take them out in the heat of the day.

"If it gets too hot we have cool vests that go on the dog," Goll said. Other (preventative) measures include swapping out a dog's work schedule from days to nights. "This will shorten our week so they get more time to rest. But there's some days you just have to (work) through it."

The importance of the K-9's mission was not always apparent to those outside the law-enforcement community before 9-11, Goll said. "They knew we were there if they needed us. Now you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone -- the commanders, the senior enlisted leadership -- who aren't focused on the dog's mission."

Military working-dog handlers are a special breed themselves, Goll said. "It is important that you like animals, because you're with these dogs a lot. It's a friendship that grows out of trust for each other. The dog has to come to trust you as well as you trust the dog. Once that happens you've got a real good team." 

Staff Sgt Sloan Kalina graduated from the Department of Defense military working-dog school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in August after nine years in security forces investigations. Deployed from Kirtland AFB, N.M., he is teamed with Torro, a Belgian malinois.

"It's a great responsibility protecting all these people and all these assets," Kalina said. "Planes don't fly if these people aren't safe."

Kalina said Torro has alerted twice on suspicious scents. The first was on his third day on the job. Kalina said his training told him what to do next.

"You just pull (the dog) out of there, get everybody out of the location and let (the explosive ordnance disposal airmen) come and do their job."

Although nothing was found on either alert, Kalina said he would "rather not have something there than let something through that was."

The staff sergeant said he trusts the dog with his own life every day that he sends him in after potentially deadly materials. "I've got all the faith in the world in him. He'll find it if it's there." 

(Story re-printed courtesy of AFNEWS - Air Force Print News )

horizontal rule


Arkie inspects a truck at the vehicle search area at a forward-deployed location. The veteran military working dog with the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol, Arkie works with Staff Sgt. Louis Smith. (Photo by 2nd Lt. Nancy Kuck


Four defenders work like dogs
by 2nd Lt. Nancy Kuck, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

02/04/03 - OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Working like a dog. This simile relates to someone who works tirelessly throughout a busy day. For four exclusive members at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, "working like a dog" is more than a simile. It is their daily life. 

Arkie, Tasja, Athos and Dutchy are part of the military working dog team at a forward-deployed location. These fabulous four put forth all their effort to ensure base residents sleep safer at night, protecting them from any explosive that may enter the base.

"The dogs go through extensive training before getting deployed here," said Staff Sgt. Damion Tineo, part of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Tasja. "Dogs are getting deployed now more than ever before," he said.

A three-month deployment is nothing new to these four dogs. Each of them has been in the area at least once before.

Arkie, who is designated as the veteran of the group, is currently on his fourth desert deployment according to his partner, Staff Sgt. Louis Smith, 380 ESFS K-9 patrol. The only German shepherd here, Arkie is the oldest dog of the four.

The military working dogs are treated in the same manner that their trainers are when arriving in theater. "When the dogs arrive here, they have to get adjusted to the new environment as we do," said Staff Sgt. Robert Odom, a handler with the 380th ESFS K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Dutchy. "They are just like people, (and) they get stressed out too," he said. Their days here include lengthy hours and rotating shifts at the vehicle search area. It is here where people can see these base members examine vehicles for any suspicious materials.

"Their instincts are 10 times better than ours," said Tineo. "They are awesome with their senses."

Training never stops for the dogs while they are here. On days when they are not at the vehicle search area, they are either training in various areas such as patrol and protection, resting or just being dogs.

"We can't have them work all the time because it is not fair to them," said Odom. "We let them relax and make sure they are not always cooped up by coming in on our off days and letting them out to be dogs."

Their scheduled training revolves around two days of patrol exercises and two days of protection exercises. Done in various buildings throughout the base and on the flightline, the dogs participate in exercises where they are required to complete certain tasks. After accomplishing the required tasks, they get rewards that range from praise to squeaky toys.

Although these dogs appear approachable, these selective four are not family pets by any means and are not to be petted without permission by their trainers.

"A lot of people do not realize that these dogs are trained to attack," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Smith, who is teamed up with Athos. "These dogs are meant to be petted by their handlers, and if strange people just come up and pet our dogs ... they may lose their edge, and we are not going to let that happen."

Athos, Arkie, Dutchy and Tasja show base residents what it is really like to work like a dog.

horizontal rule

The nose knows, military working dogs 
complete security forces mission

by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
The nose knows  

Staff Sgt. Ethan McCants puts Edo through a search exercise at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. His reward for a job well done is his favorite ball. Sergeant McCants and military working dog Edo are assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)



3/10/2006 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- “Get 'em!”

With one swift movement, military working dog Breston is off like a flash, covering the distance between his handler and his target in just a few fluid strides. The reward for his speed and agility is a nice juicy bite.

Of course the juicy bite was just the “bite suit” but Breston, a Dutch shepherd, delivers an impressive 900 pounds of pressure per square inch -- enough to tell any offender he means business and enough to knock a full grown man to his feet.

Breston is one of the eight military working dogs, along with 10 handlers, who are deployed here from the 820th Security Forces Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The dogs, as well as their handlers, support both Air Force and Army missions outside the wire.

“We use the dogs often on our (security forces) patrols,” said Tech. Sgt. Sherrie Conkright, MWD handler and shift supervisor. “In addition, we have Airmen and military working dogs supporting Army missions, too.”

Teams are assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and the 101st Airborne Brigade. Because of the extensive work both branches conduct in Kirkuk and the surrounding area, the dogs augment the missions in a way no human can. For these professionals, it’s all about the nose.

“The dogs give us capabilities that far surpass humans in terms of detection,” Sergeant Conkright said. “The dogs senses are significantly more refined than ours and can detect odors better than we can. There are odors that they can smell but we can’t.”

Those odors are the unmistakable scent of explosives. In a place where the next improvised explosive device could be just around the corner, dogs like Breston are force multipliers and keep their humans alive.

“Dogs don’t generalize smells. For example, if a human smells a hamburger, they receive the whole smell in general terms,” Sergeant Conkright said. “A dog smells the parts of the burger individually -- the bun, the condiments and the burger.”

Their unique ability to separate odors alerts them to different dangers, which leads to a more proficient and quick search, she said. This is especially important when stepping outside the safety of the base.

“They support the missions we do here in both mounted and dismounted patrols outside the wire,” Sergeant Conkright said. “They travel with mounted patrols and when needed, are able to search various locations. For an unmounted patrol, they are a show of force in foot patrols throughout the city.”

Two of the MWDs here are a little different, but unnoticeable until they are let off the leash. They are called specialized search dogs, and they are trained to work “off leash” during patrols and other actions. They have the ability to work up to 200 yards away from their handler.

“The 820th has the only two SSDs in the Air Force and is a test program to find out if there is a benefit in the types of missions we do,” said Master Sgt. Robert Kisner, kennel master. “SSDs are different in the way they approach various situations but have the same basic detection capabilities as MWDs.”

The Army uses the SSD program full-time but because of the differences in the mission, it is unknown how these dogs fit into the Air Force mission. For now, the future of the program is still being tested in the field.

Staff Sgt. Ethan McCants, MWD handler, whose dog Edo is a traditional explosive search dog, is sure that dogs save lives.

“He can smell things we can’t, which allows us to back off and call (the explosive ordnance disposal flight) to do the job necessary,” he said. “He gives a better sense of safety to do the job we need to do because he knows.”

Sandbox News 6




              USAF Bases in SEA & Topics of Interest  Memorial      Why dogs?  

                      MWD History   Your dog's fate!    New K-9    Chemical Exposure!   Veterinarians

                                        Adopting Dogs    Old Dawgs Supporting Young Pups    

                                             Bulletin Boards:  K-9 Issues    Chemical Exposure 

                         Submit stories/photos     Nemo's Story   Links of Interest   For Younger Vistors




    VSPA  is an association for USAF Vietnam War Veterans who  served  in Vietnam or Thailand from  1960-1975, as  Air Police /

       Security  Police or as an Augmentee.  Visit the main pages for information on joining.

      This site, its design and content are Copyright   © 2012-1995, of the VSPA (Vietnam Security Police Association, Inc.)

                             All Rights Reserved.                   Website Last Updated:  August 21, 2015        

                 Please feel free to copy photos or stories. Just give the author, photographer, or VSPA a credit line.