When the bark is as scary as the bite
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- As the largest career field in the Air Force, it is the job of security forces squadrons to protect and defend the base. However, the Airmen don’t do it alone as they rely on their four-legged companions: military working dogs.
“The [K-9’s] abilities are incredible,” said Tech. Sgt. Juventino Salazar, the 35th Security Forces Squadron kennel master. “These military dogs can do a lot more than a typical patrol unit.”
Upon request, MWDs and their handlers provide security around the base in situations that call on their specialties in deterring foes with sheer force and tact.
“Our job is to provide detection capabilities for the installation,” Salazar said. “Having the capability to detect for explosives and narcotics along with the regular patrol of Misawa Air Base deters unauthorized items from entering the installation.”
Salazar added, they are definitely a force multiplier for the unit, meaning they allow the 35th SFS to have a broader scope of force tactics
Staff Sgt. Charles Sena, a 35th SFS MWD handler, explained there are two different types of specializations for the K-9s. They are trained in either explosives or narcotics, but most are dual-certified and also go through aggression and patrol training.
“Our section is an important asset not only because of the dogs’ detection capabilities,” said Sena. “We play a huge psychological role on the base as well. If someone has bad intentions they are most likely going to think twice about what they are doing.”
Sena added not just any dog can become a MWD. To be selected as a MWD, the K-9s are chosen at birth or at a young age and they go through their own rigorous training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
He explained the MWD teams conduct daily detection and patrol training to keep them proficient, certified and mission ready.
“Training is fun and challenging at times,” said Sena. “It is rewarding to see all the work [the K-9 and handler] have put into training and see what you can overcome together.”
Although training is essential to teams’ stamina and performance ability, Sena said it is equally important to let the dogs take a break.
“Going on runs or playing fetch is nice for the [MWDs],” said Sena. “At the end of the day they are still dogs, and they need to be taken out of that working environment to let them enjoy that.”
As kennel master, Salazar said he stays on his toes by using training to identify areas that could use improvement such as tactical and searching techniques, making sure the MWD teams are always mission ready.
“Whenever a call does come,” said Salazar, “we have to be ready for it. Whether it’s searching vehicles at the gate, or patrolling the installation.”