Military working dogs train as part of SFS team
By Senior Airman Felicia Juenke, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 07, 2009
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When walking through the dog kennels at Dyess the only thing you hear is the beastly barks of military working dogs, one might wonder how these dogs could be a security forces member's best friend.
Every 7th Security Forces Squadron dog handler understands the safety concerns of the job and that they will get bit; it's just a matter of time.
"They do their best to learn the personality of their dog as quickly as possible as they do not know what the dog is thinking," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Marcione, 7th SFS military working dog trainer.
One way the Air Force obtains a military working dog is from the Air Force's puppy program. This program allows the Air Force to breed their own working dogs. The puppies stay with the mother for a few weeks and then go to a family until they are eight months. The dogs training can take anywhere from one year to five years at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
"The dogs are trained on detection and patrolling; if they have trouble with patrolling they will be given additional training on station," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Kimble, 7th SFS kennel master.
Another way to find a military working dog is from the list of breeders. When they are ready to buy a dog they review the list and send a buy team out to look for the best dogs for the K-9 unit, said Sergeant Kimble.
How long does it take to train a dog when it arrives at Dyess? It depends on the dog.
Once the dog arrives on station the dog and its handler go through training together. Knowing it takes time to connect with their dog, the handlers are given a couple of weeks to get to know their dog by taking the dog on walks, grooming the dog, and line drills, which is like playing fetch.
"Once they have established a bond, the dog then goes through a month of daily training with their handler," said Sergeant Kimble.
If the dog does well with training they will then be allowed to start patrolling. However, a dog can sometimes lose his or her military bearing.
"Choke chain and collar corrections are our correctional tools we use, they do not hurt the dog, it just shocks them to let them know they've done something wrong," Sergeant Kimble said.
The handlers make sure that their dogs are trained to the best of their capability so that each dog has a direct impact on the mission whether it is detection or patrolling.
"The K-9 is a unique detection capability you could not replace with equipment" Sergeant Kimble said.
The dog relies on its handler for training and well being. If the handler does not train the dog properly it could result in an injury or even worse if a dog misses an explosive it could result in death. So the 7th Security Forces Squadron ensures all their military working dogs are trained to meet and exceed standards, said Sergeant Kimble.
"The best part of my job is being able to mold the dogs," Sergeant Kimble said. "I've had three new dogs come here and each one is a new challenge. It's not like doing anything else in the Air Force because we work with animals, not equipment. All those animals are completely different."