Pacific Defender 2022

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Breanna Gossett
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs


Pacific Defender is a bilateral or trilateral training event depending on how many countries are able to participate. This event gives security forces members from participating countries the opportunity to exchange information and tactics and provides them with an arena to train in.

“Working with our allies such as the RAAF allows us to keep a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marcelino Ruiz, operations superintendent assigned to the 736 SFS. “It gives us the opportunity to build interpersonal relationships which assists us in establishing the security and stability throughout the region.”

The focus of the training this year was on mounted convoyed operations, dismounted squad movements, jungle survival, urban operations, close quarter battle, weapons firing, fly away security and crowd control techniques. The military working dog teams focused on other objectives specific to their dogs through the Commando Warrior K-9 program, such as mass odor detection, scouting, tracking, building searches, water confidence and austere veterinary tactical combat casualty care training.

The Commando Warrior K-9 program is the only MWD program in the Pacific Air Forces that offers valuable training for dog teams getting ready to head overseas for deployment.

Tech. Sgt. Casey Wheatley, noncommissioned officer in charge of military dog operations assigned to the 736 SFS, has been a part of the program for over two years and has been managing the program for a year with a goal to ensure that the K-9 program is always advancing and never stagnant when it comes to training.

“We travel a lot to assist other countries’ dog programs, developing lesson plans, powerpoints, basic instruction methods, basic obedience, detection capabilities, kennel structure and administrative documenting and everything in between,” said Wheatley.

Opportunities to travel and assist other countries helps build relationships and partnerships all over the world and plays a big part in Wheatley’s role in Pacific Defender 22-1, which is to build strong relationships with our partner nations and to provide good training capabilities to continue advancing the MWDs.

“Here at Commando Warrior, we have established stressful veterinary TCCC scenarios,” said Wheatley. “Working closely with our veterinarians on Andersen Air Force Base, we ensure established training plans and criteria are being met.”

A new training tactic provided for the MWD handlers this year is austere veterinary training. This training plays a vital role when it comes to deployed environments and it’s very important that handlers understand TCCC for MWDs under fire in stressful situations as it will keep their dog alive and ensure continuous use of the dog.

RAAF provides a valuable asset to Pacific Defender as they have unique capabilities that we do not possess such as tracking, explosive detection and specialized searching dogs.

The explosive detection dogs can search on and off leash and can search a large area very quickly, using a similar search pattern we use, just at a greater scale.

“The RAAF is always a pleasure to work with as they always come with one hundred percent motivation and knowledge to pass on to us,” said Wheatley. “Continuously building our relationship with the RAAF plays a crucial role in achieving my goals for this program.”

For future Pacific Defender exercises, Wheatley is pushing to get other countries involved in the Commando Warrior K-9 program to help build relationships across the world and keep the exchange of training techniques flowing.