Man’s best friend, on and off the battlefield
Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. — Having a companion who harnesses higher senses than a typical person is a great asset when dealing with hostile forces. The mission at Holloman Air Force Base is focused on training many different types of Airmen. Military working dogs play a vital role for military members serving at deployed locations.
Whether it be pilot or journalist, man or beast, Holloman AFB has a defined training program for its Airmen, but that doesn’t stop the handlers from going above and beyond their normal duties to ensure they have the best training possible so when they are deployed, they are better equipped and capable to handle their duties. Military working dogs serve on the front lines with infantry from all branches; this means they must be trained to a level above that of a normal K-9 unit typically utilized with civilian law enforcement.
An Airman is never done training. Throughout their career they are constantly striving to better themselves to more efficiently accomplish their mission. The same is applied to military working dogs. Once a dog is received from Lackland AFB, Texas, where they undergo a basic training much like Airmen do, the dogs are tested to determine their limits and to find which roles will best suit them. The dogs can serve many different purposes such as patrol units, bomb detection or hostile detainers.
Not all dogs can be multi-faceted, however, those who can assume multiple roles will serve their handlers to a higher extent and be more combat efficient.
“One bad experience can ruin a dog,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Burtt, 49th Security Forces Squadron, MWD handler. If a MWD is improperly trained, it can hinder their progress. Training the dogs is a carefully planned and executed task, and it requires many hours of training for each specialty that the dog will possess.”
Training MWDs is not limited to Holloman AFB. The handlers team up with the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department for remedial training for dogs who are either not yet up to par or are lacking in certain areas. When a dog exhibits a lack of drive or intensity, they are taken to Las Cruces, N.M., to receive additional training from the resident experts from the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department.
Sgt. Jerry Madden, DACSD, helps handlers remediate the dogs to help them exceed previous expectations. The experience of the Doña Ana dog handlers serves as an invaluable asset to the handlers at Holloman Air Force Base. This is coupled with weekly narcotics training from the local Border Patrol unit. Together, well-rounded and capable MWDs are formed.
The MWDs aren’t the only ones who benefit from all of this training. The dog handlers themselves also receive certifications from the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department. This gives them a greater precedence as dog trainers, and a higher chance of continuing their career as a dog handler after their military service.
Combined, all of this training creates experienced MWDs capable of serving on the front lines. Room clearing, hostile detainment, and bomb detection are a great asset for infantrymen to have alongside them. The goal at Holloman is to ensure mission-ready Airmen leave the base with all of the experience and training necessary to accomplish the mission at deployed locations, and MWD handlers are no exception. The MWDs may be a lesser-known faction of our war fighting, however they are vital to mission success.