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Military working dogs, handlers are mission ready

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathon D. A. Carnell
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Having continuous training that not only conforms, but surpasses the standards set by the U.S. Air Force is how the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, maintains mission readiness with their military working dogs.

The dog-handler position requires Airmen who fulfill the role to be resilient, strong and prepared at all times. Military working dogs and their handlers are on stand-by and ready to complete whatever may come their way.

“Each dog team operates training based off of their Optimal Training Plan,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Estrada, 60th SFS military working dog handler. “The OTP is the minimum military working dog proficiency training required of each task per month.”

The 60th SFS MWDs and handlers train for any call which may require a need for their abilities.

“The OTP will identify if the training tasks are to be conducted daily, weekly, semi-monthly or monthly,” said Estrada. “The type of dog will determine your OTP. Basic obedience and upkeep of what the MWDs are trained on.”

Mission readiness is something the SFS MWD handlers are proud of. The K-9’s daily training simulates how a real-life situation takes place.

“On day-to-day operations, we’re on the road providing Travis with MWD presence,” said Estrada. “MWD teams provide Security Forces an enhanced capability to secure protection-level resources, enforce military laws and regulations, suppress the use of illegal drugs, detect explosives and protect installations and resources during peacetime, war and in support of other operations other than war.”

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are approximately 2,700 active-duty military working dogs in the U.S. Armed Forces. Many of these dogs are deployed to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The military working dog section is considerably different from other sections,” said Staff. Sgt. Christopher Childress, 60th SFS MWD trainer at Travis. “The airmen have to be proficient in law enforcement duties, base defense and dog training. For other Air Force specialty codes, there comes a time in which a break in training occurs. Not with us, our section never stops training.”

Training for military working dogs and their handlers takes place at the 341st Training Squadron located at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

“The moment we stop training, that’s when lives are at risk, said Childress. “‘K-9 leads the way’ is the motto we live by. In addition to training, not only do we support home station, we also are on call to support the Secret Service and Department of State. Our K-9 teams go to temporary duty both continental United States and outside continental United States to provide explosive detection for venues to be visited by the President, Vice President and First Lady of the United States. Someone has to be able to find missing persons, someone has to find drugs, someone has to have boots on the ground and find explosives. That someone is the military dog teams of Travis.”

The bond between military working dogs and their handlers grows every day due to the trust needed for one another, said Childress.                                                                                                                                                                         

“During in processing, the kennel master and trainer will do their absolute best to match you with a K-9 with similar personalities of your own,” said Estrada. “Unfortunately, it’s not always that. Usually, it is the next available dog who does not have a handler. The first stage of being paired with a military working dog is building the rapport and understanding each other’s personalities. The second stage is actually working together and adjusting to one’s need to become a certified military working dog team.”

Having military working dogs and their handlers patrol and provide security has benefited the Air Force globally.

At Travis, our SFS dog-handlers provide efforts every day to ensure safety. Although military working dogs and their handlers move forward with their careers, Travis will continue to concentrate on training in the here and now.

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