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Military Working Dogs: JBSA’s four-legged defenders

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, runs with his MWD during a hurdle training exercise

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, runs with his MWD during a hurdle training exercise Aug. 27 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keilen Evans, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, follows his MWD to the end of a tunnel during a training exercise

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keilen Evans, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, follows his MWD to the end of a tunnel during a training exercise Aug. 27, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. MWDs are service dogs capable of detecting explosives, narcotics and locating missing individuals.

Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, grooms his MWD

U. S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, grooms his MWD before obedience training Aug. 27, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Every morning during training 902nd SFS MWD handlers start their day by grooming their MWDs to build rapport.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his MWD after completing obedience commands

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his MWD after completing obedience commands Aug. 27, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. To become a MWD handler, Airmen must be assigned to Security Forces and obtain a recommendation from a kennel master before they can be considered for the position.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, commands his MWD to sit on top of a stair-step pyramid.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, commands his MWD to sit on top of a stair-step pyramid during a training exercise Aug. 27, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. All MWDs are trained for 120 days at the 341st Training Squadron Department of Defense MWD Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keilen Evans (right), a military working dog handler, performs MWD training by mimicking the motions of Tech. Sgt. Mark Devine

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Keilen Evans (right), a military working dog handler, performs MWD training by mimicking the motions of Tech. Sgt. Mark Devine (left), a kennel master, both assigned to the 902nd Security Forces Squadron Aug. 27, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Once an Airman has qualified to become a MWD handler, they are sent to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to learn MWD patrol, basic training, detection and first aid.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas-- Members and canines from the 902nd Security Forces Squadron’s military working dog section train daily together to practice operations such as drug and explosive detection, aggressor apprehension, specialized missions, and daily base patrols.

The training forms a bond between the MWDs and their handlers to ensure the safety of JBSA personnel, property and resources.

"Military working dogs are our partners," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Devine, 902nd SFS kennel master. "They are family."

The 341st Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is responsible for the initial training of all MWD handlers in MWD patrol, basic training, detection and first aid.

The Department of Defense MWD Center at the 341st TRS breeds the puppies and trains them from birth to pass the certification process to become MWDs.

Dogs that don't meet DOD criteria are adopted or released to local law enforcement agencies. The primary breed of MWDs in the Air Force are Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois.

“Our day-to-day routine starts by feeding the dogs," said Senior Airman Taylor Bryant, 902nd SFS MWD handler. “We give them a one-hour rest period and before beginning training.”

Handlers groom and run through basic obedience commands with their MWDs to strengthen their relationship. They complete various demonstrations in the training yard to prepare them for real-world scenarios. If the MWD performs satisfactorily after each training exercise, the handler praises them for their progress.

“I recently became a handler and building a connection with my dog is a great experience,” Bryant said.

Throughout the day, handlers put their MWDs in the kennels to give them breaks in between training segments, allowing them to cool off and get plenty of rest.

“I like being a military working dog handler because of how rewarding it is,” Devine said. “A handler requires early mornings, long days and late nights. It is extremely fulfilling to see all of the hard work you and your partner have done and the results of it.”

Whenever MWDs start showing signs of slowing down, a kennel master will put together a disposition package, retiring that dog and looking for a suitable home for them.

Devine said the disposition package takes about two months from start to finish. After that, the dog will live its retired life with either a prior handler or a suitable adoptee.

Until then, MWDs continue to train alongside their handlers here to provide protection for JBSA's installations and members.  

“It feels really good to train with my dog,” Evans said. “I treat her like she's a daughter to me, and we try to learn as much as we can in this time that we have together.” 

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