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MWDs: an irreplaceable asset

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Carissa Wolff
  • 36th Wing Legal Office
What Andersen combat enabler is about two feet tall, stands on four legs and wags its tail when excited? 

Every day Andersen's Military Working Dogs regularly patrol Andersen's jungles as well as perform explosive and drug detection tasks.

"Most MWDs are purchased from vendors at 1.5-2.5 years of age and must pass an in-depth, challenging procurement test," said Capt. Jeffrey McKamey, 36th Security Forces Squadron operations officer. "The 341st Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, Texas, does have a MWD Breeding Program that raises puppies who have the potential of being selected for the MWD Course."

Before a MWD is permanently stationed as an asset at a base, they have to go through a 120-day training course.

"Department of Defense MWDs are trained at the 341st Training Squadron, also known as the DoD Military Working Dog Training Center at Lackland," said Tech. Sgt. Todd Tomlinson, 36th SFS kennel master. "The MWD Training Course is divided into two 60-day sections, patrol and detection."

Not only do the dogs have to be trained, but their handlers go through a rigorous course as well. The MWD Handler's Course is a two-part 11-week course, where they must learn "patrol-dog handling" and "detector-dog handling."

"Part one of our training is basic MWD care, control and patrol," Captain McKamey said. "Part two is detector dog handling. Students are provided with the basic skills for utilizing, caring for, and handling of an MWD."

Once the MWDs are trained and up to speed they are sent to their respective permanent duty stations.

The dogs are then assigned by the kennel master as new handlers arrive. Handlers stay with the same MWD until completion of their tour or a need to change MWDs arises.

The MWDs are permanently housed in a DoD-approved kennel facility. This is also where the kennel staff offices are located. Special arrangements are made if MWD teams are deployed to an area without a kennel facility.

A MWD is retired when they can longer perform up to prescribed DoD standards or have health deficiencies that prevent MWDs from performing day-to-day work.

"Public law requires that MWDs who are deficient must be vetted through the U.S. Air Force MWD Disposition Coordinator at Lackland," Sergeant Tomlinson said. "During this process it will be determined if an MWD can be: utilized by a civilian law enforcement agency, adopted by former MWD handlers or if the MWD will be adopted by other individuals capable of humanely caring for the MWD."

If an MWD dies while in service they are given a full-military honor ceremony to include honor guard support similar to their human counterparts.

Military working dogs have been used at Andersen since it was founded in 1944.  They were heavily used by American Armed Forces during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam Conflict as well as being deployed to Central Asia for the Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

According to Captain McKamey, MWDs are important to Andersen due to their versatility and abilities.

"Because of their abilities, which far exceed ours they provide a visual, physical and psychological deterrence, making the MWDs an irreplaceable asset to the U.S. Air Force and Team Andersen," Captain McKamey said. "They are a huge force-multiplier which enhances Integrated Base Defense operations. They provide a wide range of capabilities not found in any man-made machine."