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SFS military working dogs, Airmen keep base safe, secure

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rachel Shetler, 39th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, pulls her MWD, Buck, away from a simulated suspect during a K-9 demo at Airman Appreciation Day, March 29, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. These demonstrations showcase the capability MWDs and handlers add to the security forces toolkit for protecting the base, assets and personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rachel Shetler, 39th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, pulls her MWD, Buck, away from a simulated suspect during a K-9 demo at Airman Appreciation Day, March 29, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. These demonstrations showcase the capability MWDs and handlers add to the security forces toolkit for protecting the base, assets and personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

A military working dog handler interacts with his MWD prior to a guard mount formation April 4, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Guard mount gives flight leadership the opportunity to relay pertinent information prior to an Airman’s shift. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

A military working dog handler interacts with his MWD prior to a guard mount formation April 4, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Guard mount gives flight leadership the opportunity to relay pertinent information prior to an Airman’s shift. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

Security Forces military working dog handlers and their four-legged companions are part of a variety of tools in the 39th Security Forces Squadron toolkit.

Those MWDs and their handlers work “paw-in-hand” to keep the base, its assets and personnel safe and secure.

“We’re responsible for the security of the base like any other security forces patrol,” said Tech. Sgt. Erin Sims, 39th Security Forces Squadron kennel master. “We also specialize in detecting explosives or drugs before they become an issue to the base.”

That specialization comes into play all throughout base, whether it’s one of the entry points to base, during a patrol in housing or performing building walkthroughs. 

“Our handlers come in, get their dog, arm up then hit the road,” said Sims. “They spend their shifts out at the gate in the search pit checking commercial trucks. After that, they leave and join patrols as part of random anti-terrorism measures, doing building walk arounds or presence patrols in housing and around base. All of this is done to keep the base safe and secure.”

Doing so requires handlers and their teammate be up to date in any detection or security training procedures.

“My job is all about maintaining training currency for our teams,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fortune, 39th SFS kennel lead trainer. “Just like how aircrew have their own currencies they have to maintain, we have that too. I also try to continuously advance our teams to learn new skills and keep up with the times. We have a huge responsibility to stay ahead of any threats.”

Although dog handlers operate slightly differently than a conventional security forces patrolmen, they must maintain conventional security forces training proficiency.

“We're pretty unique in security forces because we have to know the job as dog handlers and do the job as regular security forces patrolmen as well,” Fortune continued.  “We do this on top of learning everything required to work with a MWD. That leads to a lot of training we have to go through to maintain that conventional security forces currency alongside our currency with our dogs. We can be pulled in at any moment to do anything that the security forces side has.”

Having this tool in the security forces toolkit allows those assigned to a base some level of comfort or sense of safety, Sims said.

“Seeing that we have working dogs on base can provide comfort for people,” said Sims. “They know they can feel more secure. It can also provide some element of fear or be a psychological deterrent for some people who are possibly trying to do harm.”  

Whether it’s training for the next threat, or conducting a presence patrol, the teams are ready to act on an incident at a moment’s notice.