The Bond that Keeps Atsugi Safe
Military working dogs (MWD) and their handlers are deployed worldwide in support of global operations and play a significant role in safeguarding military bases.
Currently, six military working dogs are serving aboard Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi at Naval Security Forces (NSF).
“The purpose of having military working dogs here in Atsugi is to ensure that we provide the base and the fleet safety when it comes to vehicles coming on board and to ensure that no type of suspicious activities are being performed here on the base,” said MWD Leading Petty Officer Master-at-Arms 1st Class Mark Garcia. “We also do Barracks inspections and search for any narcotics that may have been brought on base and try and stop them from spreading.”
For the MWDs on NAF Atsugi, tasks can include patrolling the base perimeter internally and externally, conducting random inspections in bachelor and family housing, and even giving just doing a demonstrations at an event or for a group of school children.
Dogs have a highly sensitive sense of smell which aides them in this specialized field. A canine’s nose contains up to 225 million scent receptor nerves, compared to the five million receptors in the human nose.
This means that military working dogs can detect narcotics, explosives, illegal currency, gas leaks, arson accelerants and illegally imported food, according to the Department of Defense (DoD) Puppy
At NAF Atsugi, the role of the military working dog can range from patrol to drug detection or explosive detection. Military working dogs are typically either German Shepherd or Belgian Malinosis because these breeds display a superior ability to perform these tasks.
Most of the Dogs come from the DoD Puppy Program or they are brought in from Germany,” said Master at Arms 2nd Class Zachary Lyons. “They are chosen through a process where they test on different abilities that they show when they are still young puppies.
They go through required training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas through explosive, drug or patrol training. Once they pass their certification, they are sent out to the fleet.”
Although the career of a military working dog begins with basic training, the real training begins at their first command.
“Once we get a new MWD from Lackland, they are just like a new Sailor out of A-school. They have the basic knowledge but they are a long ways away from being ready,” said Lyons. “We are constantly training the dogs.
Every day we take an MWD out and work on detection or obedience. A lot of the training is really about strengthening the bond between a MWD and the handler, they both have to be able to know what the other is thinking in any situation.”
A typical day for an MWD and their handler begins early in the morning, ends well into the evening and usually contains plenty of patrols and extensive training in between.
“The dogs are extremely important to NAF Atsugi’s security force,” said Garcia. “Not a lot of people see what we do on and off base, but they feel the benefits in added Security.”