Star shines at Shaw
By Airman 1st Class Jacob Gutierrez, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 24, 2020
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- They train for hours. Days. Weeks. It is a rigorous schedule that ensures a bond unlike any other. They have the ability to inflict fear in aggressors, like no human ever would. The picture of a warrior immerges; however, the end result yields a slightly different form.
This warrior has four legs, and she responds as well to a game of fetch as she does to the training that makes her a vital asset to the mission she serves. The 20th Security Forces Squadron recently welcomed Star, a 4-year-old Labrador Retriever military working dog with no shortage of personality.
“Any time I’m walking around the base, people think I’m just walking my own dog,” said Staff Sgt. Armand Myers, 20th SFS MWD handler. “They ask if I brought in my Lab from home.”
Star is not a conventional example of an MWD. Most of the dogs trained to serve in the Air Force are typically German Shepherds or Belgium Malinois. Star had a much different assignment before she joined the team at Shaw.
MWD Star was previously specialized search dog Star of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“These dogs enter the Marine Corps training solely off-leash on hand commands and signals with electric buzzers,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Sweat, 20th SFS MWD trainer. “We had to train her on-leash, as opposed to what she was used to doing off-leash.”
Star’s training mainly focused on her adjustment to constantly having a companion with her. That core aspect of teamwork is what makes the bond between dog and handler even stronger.
MWD’s have a wide range of critical capabilities including aiding their handler in performing security patrols and searching for and detecting explosives and narcotics. When Star adjusted to how the Air Force trains and prepares, she became a multi-talented member of Team Shaw.
“Every single new team, dogs and trainers, gets started with a 90-day training period,” said Sweat. “If we feel the team is ready we will push for validation and certifications earlier. Star has been through all of that already.”
With her evaluations behind her, the sky is the limit for Star. Don’t let that fiery personality fool you, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
“She likes to play a lot,” said Myers. “But she’s got a great nose on her. She’s definitely able to sniff out the stuff we can’t see.”