Military working dogs train constantly to protect and serve

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The back hallway is dim and dank upon entry, but the air is loud with alarm as the military working dogs greet a human presence with a mixture of hostility, excitement and inquiry. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hayes, 81st Security Forces Squadron, approaches Densy, who immediately calms herself to the touch of a seasoned trainer.

Canine officers, along with their trainers, are constantly working to maintain themselves as a serious and effective force of security, both at Keesler and in deployed locations.

"Military working dogs are trained from birth to protect and serve alongside their human counterparts, and handlers get to work with these well-trained dogs on a daily basis," said Staff Sgt. James Wader, 81st SFS. "Not only are these dogs trained to track and capture fleeing suspects, but are used for the detection of narcotics and explosives as well."

The trainers undergo a competitive selection process after being police officers for three years and must attend a three-month school at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, learning to guide dogs in patrol and detection.

"There is a long process to become a trainer," said Hayes. "There are endless requirements, including a speech test and training at Lackland is with different dogs than an officer is paired with here."

Once at Keesler, handlers must uphold their training every day to keep the dogs from becoming pets.

"What they have are perishable skills," said Wader, explaining for Toki. "He'll forget over time that I'm in charge if he isn't trained constantly."

While the canines and humans work together, the trainers are definitely in charge as Wader uses verbal commands to get his dog Toki to both attack Hayes (armed with a protective sleeve) and charge him without attacking, stopping only inches away, during a demonstration in the military working dog kennel training yard.

The dogs on Keesler must be certified to attack and detect, but dogs are brought up to detect either explosives or narcotics, not both.

"This helps officers know how to respond to found items when they aren't visible," said Wader.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Jarrell, 81st SFS kennel master, said that all Keesler dogs are deployable and can be dispatched with their handlers year-round. The working dogs are an asset used often with outside agencies, including all levels of law enforcement and theĀ U.S. Secret Service.