Joint exercise prepares military working dogs for real-world mission
Story by A1C James Kennedy on 01/16/2019
Exercises are held regularly to keep the MWDs active, prepared, and ready for a real-world incident. The dogs are trained at Lackland AFB, Texas, in controlled aggression (biting), detection, or both.
Dogs continue training after graduating from Lackland and are assigned a handler.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Keilman, the Kennel Master for the 75th Security Forces Squadron, said each handler is responsible for the well-being of their assigned dog such as exercise, training, day to day operations, veterinarian trips, and cleaning their kennels.
On March 13 the MWD unit participated in a joint exercise with a civilian law enforcement K9 unit.
These joint exercises are helpful to both the handlers and the dogs. The handlers get to exchange knowledge and the dogs get to experience different levels of odors.
During biting exercises handlers dress in a padded suits and pretend to be a “suspect” evading law enforcement. The dogs then chase the suspect and bite them and hold them in place until the handler can restrain them.
Detection exercises comprise of the dogs sniffing out drugs and bombs. Before starting each exercise handlers hide training aids around the training area for the dogs to find.
When they complete tasks like finding their “target odor,” the dogs are rewarded with a ball, verbal praise and/or lots of love from the handler for the dog’s hard work.
The exercises the MWD unit conducts are constantly changing location. They regularly change locations on- and off-base to work the dogs in different environments.
“I enjoy training. It’s fun. It should be fun because it makes you want to do it more often,” said Keilman.
“Not too many of us that work with dogs think of it as work. Don’t get me wrong, we put in work, but we love this and the reward goes far beyond what people see,” said Keilman. “When you earn the love and respect of a dog, or see a dog team go from looking like “hot garbage” to a well-oiled machine, there’s nothing like it.”