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Four-legged service members take bite out of crime

Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, rewards his partner, Jeja, 460th SFS MWD, during narcotic and explosives detection training  April 8, 2014, at a training facility on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Recently, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana; however, the possession, use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited for all Department of Defense employees and is punishable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice for military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, rewards his partner, Jeja, 460th SFS MWD, during narcotic and explosives detection training April 8, 2014, at a training facility on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Recently, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana; however, the possession, use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited for all Department of Defense employees and is punishable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice for military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Rex and Jeja, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs, latch onto Staff Sgt. Joshua Carabajal, 460th SFS MWD handler, during a K-9 exercise at a training facility April 8, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. MWDs routinely train in narcotic and explosives detection training, along with apprehension work. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

Rex and Jeja, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs, latch onto Staff Sgt. Joshua Carabajal, 460th SFS MWD handler, during a K-9 exercise at a training facility April 8, 2014, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. MWDs routinely train in narcotic and explosives detection training, along with apprehension work. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.- -- With leash in hand, Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, opens his passenger car door to allow his partner outside. Tail wagging, she jumps out and runs through a grassy field. After carefully circling the premises, she lies next to a spot on the ground she is sure will please her handler. "Good job girl! You did it!" Aikins yells exuberantly. The dog leaps up in excitement, lavishing in the praise of a job well done.

However, this isn't an ordinary afternoon stroll for the two. Jeja, 460th SFS MWD, is an active participant in narcotic and explosives detection training.

Despite looking soft around the edges, Buckley's military working dogs are anything but a house pet. These hardworking pups constantly hone their skills to sniff out drugs or explosives, while protecting the base from intruders.

The dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell. During a 120-day basic training program at Joint-Base Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the dogs are trained to sniff out seven different odors at one time, capable of detecting miniscule amounts of nearly any substance--even in a sealed container.

"The MWD sense of smell is 45 times greater than a human," said Tech Sgt. Jeffrey Dausey, 460th SFS kennel master. "Nowhere on base is neutral; all areas are subject to search by the dogs."

Recently, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. However, the possession, use and distribution of marijuana is still prohibited for all Department of Defense employees and is severely punishable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice for military personnel.

"Just because marijuana is legalized in Colorado does not mean that you are able to bring it on base," said Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th SFS MWD handler. "Criminals may get away with hiding narcotics from others, but I can guarantee you won't get away with hiding it from our dogs."

The dogs are trained heavily to work as a team with their trainer or handler, creating an extraordinary relationship.

"There are no words to describe the happiness on a dog's face when the handler arrives for duty and they get ready to start the day," Dausey said. "The term 'man's best friend' truly represents this bond. The teams ride together, play together and deploy together. A dog can sense if his handler is stressed, tired or happy. Whatever the handler is feeling, it runs down the leash."

MWDs also provide a huge helping hand to security forces members during deployments. The dogs are deployed with their handlers to assist in overseas tasks.

"Deploying with a dog is like deploying with a two year old," Aikins said. "You have to feed them, bathe them, clean up after them and take care of them when they're sick, but they are a huge necessity to helping us. No one can truly understand the bond between an MWD and their handler."

The hard work and dedication of these loyal service members provide a force multiplier advantage to the Air Force, keeping the installation safe even during an ordinary afternoon stroll.
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