Working With Air Force's Four-Legged Defenders
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kailee Reynolds
Military Working Dogs (MWD) provide a
variety of services, including the detection of explosives and drug
searches, tracking of personnel and suspects, patrol of restricted
areas, and protection of military installations. Keeping these dogs'
skills strong and honed is essential - this is where MWD handlers
play a vital role.
Staff Sgt. Charles Gaines, a 47th Security
Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, is in charge of
training each of the dogs and handlers at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. He is
responsible for making sure the bond, teamwork, and skills between a
handler and a MWD are at their finest.
January 13, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt.
Charles Gaines, 47th Security Forces Squadron military
working dog trainer with Tuko, a military working dog, at the 47th Security Forces Squadron military working dog training area at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. MWD handlers employ their dogs to conduct vehicle searches, and searches of open areas, buildings, and other locations for the detection of suspects, explosives or illegal drugs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kailee Reynolds)
"As a trainer, my day-to-day consists of
feeding and checking up on the dogs,"; said Gaines. "Then I'll come
up with a game plan with the handlers on what kind of training they
will be doing that day, whether that's patrol or detection."
While MWD trainers are more of a supervisory role, they are still
very hands-on when it comes to working with both the dogs and their
handlers and providing top-notch training.
"Part of my job is
to hide either faux drugs or explosives around the base and have the
handlers and their dogs go out and run a 'detection problem,' as we
call it, to find them," said Gaines. "We will also go out and do a
patrol to work on controlled aggression or searches for a
person/persons outside or inside buildings."
Being a MWD
handler or trainer is a remarkable job that comes with many unique
challenges. Working with these animals is an exceptional
responsibility because each dog has a distinctive personality and
different health status/concerns. A dog's mood can change from day
to day, which is why understanding dog psychology is a must for
these handlers and trainers.
Handlers are also responsible
for the physical aspect of each dog, including bathing, grooming,
exercising, and feeding their dogs. Military working dogs are also
prone to injuries, so being able to deal with cuts, scrapes, broken
nails, broken teeth, and more is vital.
Even though being a
MWD handler comes with many responsibilities, it can also be a very
rewarding career while building strong bonds with their companions.
January 13, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Gaines, 47th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, instructs Tuko, a military working dog, to follow basic commands at the 47th Security Forces Squadron military working dog training area at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kailee Reynolds)
"The most rewarding thing about being a
trainer for me is seeing the progress between a handler and dog when
they finally start working together as a team and forming a strong
bond," said Gaines. "It's great to see a handler develop the skills
needed to read their dog and start working with them to move as one
Gaines discovered the military working dog career
after joining the Air Force back in 2016.
"I've always been interested in law enforcement, and
I've always been a big supporter of the military, so I thought it
would be a great route for me to join security forces in the Air
Force," said Gaines. "I really didn't know much about training or
working with MWDs, but once I found it, I became really passionate
The initial military working dog handler's course
is a three-month long course located at Lackland Air Force Base,
Texas. It covers patrol, detection and veterinary knowledge
"So far, it's the best Air Force course I've been
to," said Gaines. "I had a lot of fun, made a lot of connections and
learned a lot of great information. At the start of the course, I
knew that military working dog training was where I belonged and
what I really wanted to do."
Becoming a military working dog
handler or trainer is no simple task. It takes a great deal of
dedication and more to be chosen for the job.
"While being a
canine handler comes with more added responsibility, hard work, and
dedication, it is a very rewarding job," said Gaines. "It comes with
amazing opportunities for your career and at the end of the day, you
have this great bond with your dog."
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