BUCKLEY AOR FORCE BASE, Colorado --
“When you’re deployed as a handler, you quickly learn that the only aspect of war that remains consistent is your partner; in our case, that’s our dog,” said Staff Sgt. John Cooper, 460th Security Forces Squadron kennel master.
To become an effective team, whether it be in a deployed location or in garrison, it’s imperative for each handler to establish a relationship with their dog. These relationships are built heavily on trust and discipline.
To build such a trusting relationship, Team Buckley’s MWD handlers train with their dogs regularly. This training involves ensuring that each dog remains ready to accomplish their specific skill, whether that be explosive detection or narcotics detection. Additionally, a handler must regularly sharpen their own skills in first aid to help treat their four-legged teammates when necessary.
The 460th SFS MWD unit collaborates with members of the U.S. Air Force Academy Veterinary Treatment Facility monthly to not only ensure all dogs in their kennels are at their highest state of health, but to further prepare themselves and to advance their knowledge of possible healthcare needed in an emergency.
“We provide the dogs with routine care such as vaccines, dental care, wellness examinations and much more,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Alejandro Preciado, U.S. Air Force Academy Veterinary Treatment Facility NCO in charge. “We also teach the handlers how to properly care for their battle buddies, whether it be a snake bite, or an improvised explosive device caused injury.”
The importance of such training is extremely critical especially in a deployed environment, where the life and care of the military working dog relies heavily on the knowledge and experience of the handler.
“I have absolute confidence in the abilities of these handlers to be able to provide triage to their partners,” said Preciado. “We have a close enough relationship for them to know they can call any of the military personnel at the USAFA VTF and get directions from us on how to handle any situation they aren’t familiar with.”
An example of this training and camaraderie took place on June 10th, when Buckley Air Force Base hosted a joint live training called the Warrior Dog Competition. This competition involved MWD’s from different branches of the military competed against each other in different areas such as obedience, first aid and general knowledge. Training like this simulates deployed environments where the handlers must rely on their experience and education to complete the mission while in a stressful situation.
During this competition, personnel from the USAFA VTF volunteered to assist with evaluating each competitor’s performance and took time for any necessary training to help handler’s perfect their abilities.
“Being in charge of the kennels here on Buckley, I can’t thank the members of USAFA VTF enough,” said Cooper. “They assist with making sure our kennels are up to standard, they continuously teach each of us new medical techniques, and they make sure each of us are not only prepared but that we are confident to deploy at a moments notice.”