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K9s provide unmatched detection capability

By Staff Sgt. Chad Warren 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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When it comes to finding dangerous items and contraband at home or abroad, some of the military's most skilled members don't carry a weapon or wear a uniform.

The 2nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog section matches skilled handlers with highly trained K9 companions, creating teams capable of detecting items and substances that would be impossible to find by human senses.

Additionally, K9s are trained to assist in various patrol duties, increasing the effectiveness of the force, and making the job safer for on-duty defenders.

"We train in explosive detection, drug detection and patrol work," said Staff Sgt. Todd Richey, 2 SFS military working dog handler. "It's time consuming, but I love doing it."

Dog handlers make up a very small portion of the security forces career field, and not just anyone is selected. Applicants must adaptive and willing to put in the long hours and personal attention it takes to build a relationship with their four-legged partners.

The handlers and their K9 counterparts train continually to ensure they are ready for any situation that may arise.

"We do training daily," said Airman 1st Class Dariell Cooper, who has been a handler here for a year.

Although specific mission training is important and keeps the team proficient, general obedience training is equally as important in ensuring the handlers and dogs are comfortable working together. Handlers entrust their lives to their dogs, so spending time getting to know each other and building trust is key.

"The rapport is very important," said Cooper. "There's not a set time on how long it takes. The more time you spend with your dog, the closer you grow together."

Daily training not only builds trust and confidence, but allows the handlers to work more efficiently with their K9s.

"The more time a handler spends in training with their dog, the faster they become at performing the life-saving tasks they may encounter in the field," said Tech. Sgt. Clayton Tebbetts, 2 SFS kennel master.

"When they start to get together and get certified, they start moving faster," said Tebbetts. "The training is mainly detection, since detection is how we save lives."

Each day, MWD handlers are either on-duty performing the mission, or honing their skills for the next time they are called to action. Every day, the unparalleled bond between handler and K9 helps protect Air Force assets and personnel against any threat.