Four-Legged Wingmen: Misawa's Own Military Working Dogs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leon Redfern
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Since World War II, before the Air Force was a separate service, the Army Air Corps historically implemented Military Working Dogs (MWDs) to aid service members throughout the years. The 35th Security Forces Squadron here at Misawa Air Base showcases this tradition by implementing their four-legged counterparts when accomplishing the Air Force defense mission.

“Our military working dogs not only provide all types of detection capabilities, they also create a psychological deterrence for people who might want to cause harm to our personnel on base,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Chiriboga-Flor, the 35th Security Forces Squadron kennel master.

The MWDs selection process begins and the dogs receive their initial training by the 341st Training Squadron, at Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“Once they pass a series of base requirements at Lackland, they will be sent off to their first duty station,” Chiriboga-Flor said. “Between myself as the kennel master, and the trainer, we will conduct different training sessions with the dogs to see if we can identify their deficiencies, then improve upon it.”

The MWD and handler undergo training overseen by the MWD trainer to ensure they are both proficient and maintain the standard they are required to meet.

“We're always training on a daily basis, whether it's obedience, bite work, or detecting odors for explosive and narcotics detection,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Lawson, a 35th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “We train for the worst case scenarios to ensure we’re ready when the time comes.”

Lawson added that having a MWD in the Security Forces Squadron, especially on patrol, potentially calms the scene of the situation down.

“There are certain tasks that industry professionals believe are better suited for K9s,” Lawson said. “Based on their physical capabilities, alongside other accompanying factors that go into detection, it can be very beneficial and ultimately save more lives.”

Chiriboga-Flor added that although maintaining a sense of preparation and readiness with training is important, MWDs also need breaks from working.

“Play is one of the biggest things that we use as a reward so every day they're getting that love and attention, just like any other dog,” Chiriboga-Flor said. “If anything it is more important for those dogs to have, it is that, so they can build on the rapport between the dog and the handler.”

Lawson added when a MWD is assigned to an installation, unless deployed, they will stay at the same installation for the rest of their career. This means when the MWD handler receives a Permanent Change of Station, they will have to pass the leash off to the next handler.

“It gets rough, when you build that bond and all of a sudden you have to drop it and let it go,” Lawson said. “It’s and emotional situation, but we understand that there’s still a job to accomplish at the end of the day and you don’t want to jeopardize the next handlers bond with the MWD.”

Chiriboga-Flor added that a MWD can retire out of the Air Force; the last MWD handler will receive first choice at adopting the partner they've worked so closely with throughout their career. If the handlers are not able to adopt the dogs, that’s when adoption is open to the base populace and sometimes the public.

“Our hope is always for them to be able to get that retirement life at the end of their service,” Chiriboga-Flor said. “I believe the dogs deserve it more than anybody to lay on that couch and live that nice life after they've served their tour.”