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From pupper to power

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Litters of German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois puppies are sorted and placed into different training categories at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

These puppies will soon be highly-trained military working dogs, stationed all over the world to work with different handlers, military branches and units, and protect the Americans they serve as well as the United States.

The military working dogs’ mission is to protect personnel and property as well as support the United States Secret Service and local agencies.

“We’re good at being a great deterrent when it comes to explosives and narcotics,” said Senior Airman James Terry, 20th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “People never know what kind of dog is at the gate. If someone is coming through the gate with drugs and they see the dog, they turn around because they don’t know what kind of dog it is. It also helps when it comes to patrols and law enforcement. Downrange, we’re mostly utilized for finding explosives on convoys and working at gates.”

When a new MWD arrives to their first duty station, they will go through different training phases. The first phase is building rapport between the dog and its new handler and establishing basic commands. The second is more in-depth obedience training. The third is detection and patrol training.

Tank, 20th SFS MWD, recently arrived to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, from Lackland AFB and is in phase two of his training with Terry.

“I’ll pull him out in the morning and take him on a two or three mile walk or run and then we’ll come back,” Terry said. “Then we’ll do training for about 10 minutes outside and 10 minutes inside, all day. So, he will get a total of about three or four hours of training a day and is resting the remainder of the time.”

“For the handlers, it comes down to who we have available and who we think can get the job done best,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Ledbetter, 20th SFS trainer. “It depends on the dog. With a new dog, we prefer to have an experienced handler. We don’t have experienced handlers available, so Terry got assigned to Tank. He is a very new handler, but we feel he is very capable. He takes everything that we are teaching him and applies it to the dog. He has a good understanding on how to apply it with the dog. That’s why he has been selected.”

MWDs mainly protect military members and assets as well as ensure there are no explosives or narcotics on the installation, but they also engage with the local community by attending community events and conducting MWD demonstrations to spread awareness of their purpose and show what they can do.

“While many may think that the MWDs appear aggressive in nature, truth is most of them are well-trained, loving dogs who aim to please their handlers,” said Tech. Sgt. David Mussio, 20th SFS MWD kennel master.