An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Workin’ like a dog

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The 47th Security Forces Squadron military working dog building stands by itself, sheltering both dog handler and their partner. As the door opens, the dogs erupt into barking anticipating their partners return.

"Each handler knows which bark belongs to their dog," said Staff Sgt. Curtis Lewis, 47th SFS MWD handler. "That's how well we handlers know our dogs."

Military working dogs bring special skills and abilities to security forces squadrons around the Air Force.

"Security forces members may be able to smell certain drugs, but we can't know what potassium chloride or a grenade smells like," said Lewis. "The dogs know these smells, and they're useful in finding their targets."

A unique skill set isn't the only thing military working dogs bring to the Air Force mission.

"Every dog has their very own personality," said Staff Sgt. Britney Simpson, 47th SFS military working dog handler. "My dog, Eewok, is zany and spastic and that's something I've never worked with before."

Military working dogs are trained at various bases and are distributed to bases around the age of two years old. Once at their base, they can be a handler's first, or one of many, partners.

Senior Airman Cody Davidson, 47th SFS MWD handler for four years, is supervising his second dog, Foxo.

"We try to get matched up with dogs that mimic our personalities, and Foxo and I are a great match," said Davidson. "He's a very serious dog and doesn't take much from anyone but me."

Handlers bond with their canine counterparts through constant interactions and by training together, a feat the dogs consider a game.

"We rigorously train with the dogs to gain that rapport needed in the field," said Simpson. "We keep the training fun for the dogs because they're more motivated if they see it as a game, and it's less stressful on the dog."

The intense training is designed to prepare both the handler and canine to support the Air Force's mission at home station or in a deployed environment.

While deployed, Lewis utilized the special skills of his partner, Lee, in detecting persons of interest with the Office of Special Investigations.

"Lee could smell what we just couldn't," said Lewis. "We as humans could only do so much when searching buildings, but Lee could lead us straight to a suspect."

Simpson deployed with her current working dog, Eewok. During her deployment, she and Eewok walked ahead of troop movements to check the area for explosives and other dangers.

"We once trekked 12 miles looking for anything we could find," said Simpson. "We always train hard because we want to be prepared to work hard."

When not deployed, handlers take advantage of the physical presence of their four-legged partners when apprehending suspects.

"Just having the dog there beside me is a huge deterrent," said Davidson. "People think they may be able to outrun me, but they know they can't outrun my dog."

Being a military working dog handler comes with challenges that other career fields may not experience; one being the need to control their emotions in tense situations.

"Your emotions travel through the leash," said Simpson. "Handlers have to keep their emotions in check because if they are nervous in a dangerous situation, you can bet the dog is feeling the same thing."

Though dogs can sense their partner's moods and smell drugs through various barriers, they can also be more human-like than some people think.

"If I'm having a bad day at work, he can always cheer me up and make me laugh," said Davidson about Foxo. "They'll always be your friend and your work partner when they need to be. It's an 'on' and 'off' switch for them."

While the 47th SFS working military dog building may stand off by itself, the mission-ready airmen and military working dogs it holds carry a passion that every career should envy.

"I love my job as a handler," said Davidson. "Who else gets to say that when they come to work, they get to work with dogs?"