K-9 Veterans Day celebrated at Tyndall AFB

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Tyndall Air Force Base has worked tirelessly for the past 15 months to rebuild the base since the damage and destruction caused by a Category 5 hurricane in 2018. One of the biggest challenges Airmen and civilian employees face is getting back to a new normal. The 325th Security Forces Squadron’s military working dog unit is no different.

March 13 is K-9 Veterans Day and to commemorate the unofficial holiday, the 325th SFS MWD section put a few of their dogs to the test to demonstrate the capabilities of both dog and handler.

The United States Air Force directs that each base should have six dogs on the clock to be able to successfully complete the mission. Tyndall has just recently fulfilled that directive, overcoming manning shortages and long-distance care obstacles for the animals.

“These dogs are just like regular Airmen,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Vogt, 325th SFS MWD handler. “They work day to day, driving as hard as they can to complete the mission to best of their abilities.”

Vogt is the handler for a dog named Sunny. Vogt and Sunny spend their working hours together and each day is different depending on the needs of the mission, the animal, the installation and the handler.

“On a regular day we start out with some cardio work,” said Vogt. “Drills to the dog is (like) fetch. To us, it’s burning a little bit of his energy and getting some exercise in. Then we’ll usually roll into some kind of patrol training, work on bite work, or personnel detection. Then we’ll go into patrol utilization, so we’ll basically bounce around the base from spot to spot, organization to organization.”

Handler and dog spend countless hours focusing on training standards and techniques to keep the team sharp.

“(We) do training, on and off shift,” said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Lavalais, 325th SFS MWD kennel master. “(We) come in on break days and do training…to get proficient. Here at Tyndall, our main focus is rebuilding and trying to make the base safer.”

After morning drills the dogs and handlers will report to their daily assignment, which could include additional training, kennel cleaning, medical appointments for the animal, and so on. Day-to-day operations also depend on what classification each dog falls into.

“They can either be dual purpose or they can be single purpose,” said Lavalais. “If they are dual purpose they are either patrol and explosive, or they’re drug and patrol. (Single purpose) can be drug or explosive or searching dogs.”

“When they are patrol certified they can find can a suspect,” Lavalais continued. “When they are just explosive all they do is search for bombs, same thing with drugs. If they are just drugs then they just search for narcotics.”

The United States K-9 Corps was created March 13, 1942. Military, government and law enforcement organizations have been using the unique skillsets available through K-9 programs.

“Our dogs’ mission is detection, deterrence, and apprehension,” said Vogt. “(We) focus on the fundamentals of bite work (used in) apprehending suspects. Deterrence is just the dogs themselves are deterrents; people see the dogs and they don’t want to mess with them. Then detection work; that could be either personnel or substance detection.”

Additionally, K-9s are known for supporting large-scale events where a dignified party or individual could be at risk. The dogs act as detection assets sniffing out explosives or firearms as well as physical deterrents causing adversaries to think twice.

(We do) things like U.S. secret service missions,” said Vogt. “Sunny and I just returned from one recently. That’s a pretty normal thing for us, but it also bounces from handler to handler, we each a chance to go on one. We’ll do (President of the United States) and (Vice President of the United States) missions.”

Organizations have been using MWDs for the past 78 years to enhance deterrence and assist in mission success. Each animal brings a unique personality and a needed skillset to the fight and are considered one of the military’s most successful assets.

It is, however, the relationship between animal and human that makes this partnership so successful. K-9 Veterans Day honors that partnership and the lives of both K-9s and humans that have dedicated hours and hours of bonding and training to ensure that dog and handler duos work as a team and are a force to be reckoned with.

“I love being a K-9 handler,” said Vogt. “I love working with dogs.”