Mac and Gudger: Defending Tyndall

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Tyndall is home to many unique specialties. For one Airman, training a four-legged friend named Mac into a “good boy” is his mission.

Staff Sgt. Dailan Gudger, 325th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, has a responsibility to protect and defend Tyndall with his canine partner by his side. Together they sniff out explosives, narcotics and chase after the occasional bad guy.

Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Gudger enlisted in the Air Force at 18 years old, dedicated to getting away from negative influences.

“I noticed a lot of the [unlawful] activities my friends and classmates were getting into,” he remembered. “That turned into a desire for me to be something greater.”

Like all handlers, Gudger started out as a regular Security Forces Airman, working the gate and ensuring only authorized individuals enter the installation. After four years, he decided to cross over and become a MWD handler, ready for a new challenge. Although the process is competitive, it is open to all SFS Airmen ranks Airman Basic through Staff Sgt. If an Airman is selected to retrain, they go to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to learn the ins and outs of the new career field.

“You have to be dedicated to make it as a handler,” Gudger explained. “This job takes a lot of time from your personal life. Wherever Mac struggles, that is where the passion in me to teach him comes in.”

Finding what Mac enjoys most, such as toys or praise, makes or breaks his job performance. In the kennels, each dog has different strengths and weaknesses, meaning specialized training is necessary for each pup.

Handlers whose partners are overweight may need to go on long runs, while dogs who are scared of heights may spend more time on the MWD course. The course simulates real world objects such as tunnels, bridges and windows to ensure the dogs are not afraid upon an encounter.

“It is important that our dogs are confident in everything they do,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Vogt, 325th SFS kennel master. “This way, when they enter into a strange environment, that environment will not affect their job performance.”

According to Gudger, every handlers’ favorite part of the job is working with the dogs but building a bond with Mac, his fourth partner, has been especially rewarding.

“I really went through the mud with him,” Gudger says. “We spent many hot, draining days together. Through all of our pre-deployment training then after our deployment, I can tell you he is a truly special dog.”

Gudger says Mac’s favorite things are his job, baked chicken and laying his head on Gudger’s lap after a long day.

“The relationship we have sounds crazy but we can read each other like a book,” Gudger laughs. “Even though he can’t talk to me, we have a silent bond. I know I can trust him with my life.”