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The Sun Sets on Vandenberg’s MWH Program

Staff Sgt. Kyle Young, 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation patrolman, brushes military working horse Patton’s coat outside the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. The military working horse program will be retired on Vandenberg July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Young, 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation patrolman, brushes military working horse Patton’s coat outside the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. The military working horse program will be retired on Vandenberg July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Young, 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation patrolman conservation patrolman, cleans out military working horse Patton’s hoof outside the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022.  The military working horse program will be retired on Vandenberg July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Staff Sgt. Kyle Young, 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation patrolman conservation patrolman, cleans out military working horse Patton’s hoof outside the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. The military working horse program will be retired on Vandenberg July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Military working horse Buck, assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo inside the arena on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. The 22 year-old horse is set to retire along with the MWH program, July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Military working horse Buck, assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo inside the arena on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. The 22 year-old horse is set to retire along with the MWH program, July 28, 2022. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Military working horse Dakota, assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron, looks on as he roams the arena at the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. Following the retirement of the military working horse program on Vandenberg, Dakota will be transferred to the United States Marine Corps mountain warfare school where he will be utilized to train members of the special operations community. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

Military working horse Dakota, assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron, looks on as he roams the arena at the stables on Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2022. Following the retirement of the military working horse program on Vandenberg, Dakota will be transferred to the United States Marine Corps mountain warfare school where he will be utilized to train members of the special operations community. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. --

In 1996, Vandenberg gained a new unit of four-legged defenders from Howard Airbase in Panama, due to the downsizing and eventual closure of the installation in 1999. Thus the military working horse program on Vandenberg was established.

As a part of the conservation law enforcement section within the 30th Security Forces Squadron, horses and their riders were tasked to patrol over 99,000 acres, most of which is difficult to traverse on foot, making the horses a vital asset to the mission.

The horses also played a huge role in the community. They were always present and posturing at events and parades, becoming beloved members of the installation.

Senior Airman Kyle Young, conservation patrolman, speaks on the horses’ futures.

“We’re going to be retiring military working horses Duke and Buck,” said Young. “Duke is getting up there in age, he’s 22 years old now. He’s just getting to that point where he doesn’t have the stamina to effectively perform the mission. Buck unfortunately, has to be medically retired due to arthritis and a bone shard in his knee.”

The horses that are officially retiring will be going to a good home in Bakersfield, Calif., where they will be taken great care of.

However, they’re not all going to be out of the job. Military working horse Dakota, a young mustang, will have a new mission to accomplish.

“We’re going to be transferring Dakota to the United States Marine Corps,” said Young. “Their mountain warfare school is going to utilize him to train members of the special operations community.”

U.S. Air Force Brigadier Gen. Roy W. Collins, director of Security Forces, had nothing but praise for the program on Vandenberg.

“Vandenberg’s military working horse program is an important part of our Security Forces history,” said Collins. “These four-legged defenders and the defenders who rode them played a vital role in base defense and will forever hold a special place in our career field’s legacy.”

To combat the loss of the horses, The 30th SFS will utilize their small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS section, operating what are commonly called “drones”. They perform aerial missions to gather intelligence and cover ground that all-terrain vehicles can’t.

On August 9, 2022, the Vandenberg military working horse program will retire their horses, and hang up their spurs and tack.