More than man's best friend

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
Vandenberg military working dogs and their handlers work around the clock to keep personnel and their property safe.

From dusk to dawn handlers ensure the dogs are fed, exercised, trained, and ready for any mission.

"Typically handlers will come [to the kennel] first thing in the morning, feed all the dogs then take them out in the yard to do some obedience training," said Staff Sgt. Henry Edwards III, 30th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer and handler. "Throughout the shifts the handlers are also assigned random anti-terrorism measures."

During the RAMs the handler and their dog search vehicles at the gates, different building, tour buses, and inspect areas of high visibility to help protect the mission.

"The psychological deterrent alone is a pretty big impact," said Edwards. "If you see a dog standing at the gate that could probably deter you from coming on base and doing something. Whenever we are walking around a school or even the Base Exchange, you're probably not going to shoplift."

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the typical breeds used for this line of work due to their intelligence, aggressiveness, and loyalty. With the ability to smell 10 times stronger than a human and a force bite of 238 pounds, these canines have the power to instil fear in aggressors.

"You will be surprised," said Staff Sgt. Steven Rosario, 30th SFS MWD handler. "When we respond to a call for someone being belligerent to four or five cops, their attitude changes once they see us roll up with a MWD. The offender is a lot more scared of a dog than armed cops, because they know they are going to get bit if they keep acting belligerent."

The handlers and dogs support local police departments as well as the United States Secret Service, not only locally, but throughout the world.

"When working with the USSS, we protect anyone from our President, Vice President, and even other countries Presidents and Ambassadors," said Edwards.

An average of nine handlers and MWDs are stationed here at Vandenberg. The handlers along with their assigned dogs go on countless temporary duty assignment and deployments.

"There is a great since of accomplishment, whether it is here or down range," said Rosario. "We could be in front of a patrol leading a troop march and these guys [MWDs] are the ones finding the bombs and saving lives."

These four-legged heroes are loyal to their handler and determined to meet the mission even when the work environment begins to take a toll.

"The dog's change of environment, I think, is the most challenging part," said Rosario. "Going from California to the desert, and just the flight alone, stresses the dogs out. They work and act different with the changes of environment. It's up to us to pay close attention to them and know when they are not performing to their full potential."

Due to the time spent together handlers grow strong bonds with these canines.

"Honestly, knowing that she is going to be my partner for the day, and that we are going to do certain tasks and have a good time is the best part of my job," said Staff Sgt. Wai Yu, 30th SFS MWD handler. "That's pretty much the most rewarding thing -- when you're happy to come to work."