News>Nellis AFB selected to host new joint MWD training program
Security forces Airmen and their military working dogs cross an open court yard during a training exercise Oct. 29, 2010, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The training exercise is part of a new Nellis Air Force Base program created to condense the current 80-day training curriculum for handlers and MWDs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
Military working dog Bico gets some encouragement from a dog handler before starting a training exercise Oct. 29, 2010, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The training exercise is part of a new Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., program created to condense the current 80 day training curriculum for handlers and MWDs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
Staff Sgt. Ryan Stocklin and his military working dog Akim move around an abandoned bus during a training exercise Oct. 29, 2010, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The training exercise is part of a new Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., program created to condense the current 80 day training curriculum for handlers and MWDs. Sergeant Stocklin is assigned to the 628th Security Forces Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
Security forces Airmen and their military working dogs secure the area after exiting a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle during a training exercise Oct. 29, 2010, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The training exercise is part of a new Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., program created to condense the current 80 day training curriculum for handlers and MWDs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
by 2nd Lt. Laura Balch
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
1/5/2011 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., (AFNS) -- Air Force officials selected Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as the location of a new joint military working dog training program in late November.
The officials made their decision after Nellis AFB members graduated their beta-test class of 15 security forces dog handlers and their MWDs Nov. 9.
This MWD program was built in less than 45 days and is designed to replace the dog training course offered in Yuma, Ariz, officials said. The program offered by 99th Security Forces Group Airmen is designed to teach basic-skill sets to handlers so they can work with their dogs in any location inside or outside a combat zone.
"The idea behind the creation of this program was to locate the training where the Air Force can flexibly schedule courses in support of deployed operations and also get the handlers and dogs through their required training in as little time as possible," said Col. Kit Lambert, the 99th SFG commander. "Before, handlers and dogs were spending up to 80 days, traveling to multiple locations in order to receive their training. With this new program, they can accomplish their requirements in one location in minimum time."
In addition to centralizing the training requirements for the dogs and their handlers, another goal of this new program is to unify the terminology used by the handlers, officials said. In the past, diverse units and services communicated differently, which presented problems when performing joint tasks. Unifying the terminology is one way the handlers and dogs will be able to work together more proficiently.
"Using similar commands and signals ensures that all our handlers and dogs understand each other," said Chief Master Sgt. Eldon Dewitt, the security forces manager of the Ground Combat Training Squadron. "If something were to happen to one of our handlers, another could step in and communicate with the dog and carry on the mission."
The training for the beta test class was held on a section of the Nevada Test and Training Range that is regularly utilized by the Ground Combat Training Squadron, officials said. The GCTS provides advanced ground combat weapons and tactics training for all Air Combat Command security forces and combat support elements at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.
Nellis AFB was selected as the location for the test for a number of reasons.
One main reason was the available location -- the 4,900 acre portion of the NTTR dedicated to MWD training includes a tent city, a village, mock terrorist training camps, ravines, valleys, pastures, active improvised explosive device lanes, roads and overpasses, all of which serve as training tools the handlers can use to master working with their dogs in a variety of settings and landscapes, officials said.
Inside the village on this portion of the NTTR are a variety of buildings and rooms the dogs and handlers practice entering and clearing while searching for drugs, bombs, improvised explosive devices, homemade explosives and other dangerous materials, officials said.
"Everything from the trash piles outside the buildings, which may indicate an IED or serve as a distraction from one, to the pictures on the walls in the rooms, which may reveal the political atmosphere of the village, are indicators that the handlers must learn to identify as quickly as possible," said Maj. Scott Rider, the 99th GCTS commander.
"In the real world, our guys have a matter of seconds to discern whether they need to stop and inspect something, like a pile of trash, or try and get around it," the major said.
The base also has mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and multipurpose all-terrain vehicles that the handlers and dogs can use to train, officials said. MRAPs and MATVs are the main vehicles used in hostile areas, and practicing in them allows handlers to become familiar with the operation of the vehicles and allows the dogs to get used to traveling in small spaces surrounded by humans.
The training offered in the MWD program is updated as quickly as possible as new advancements enable changes to occur, officials said. One example of the training handlers go through is the Combat Life Saver course. This teaches the handlers to how perform medical procedures on their dogs, including inserting intravenous devices and performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"Each handler realizes that their dog is their best, best friend," Major Rider said. "When they find out what that dog can do, they do anything to protect it."
The final portion of the training is the integrated defense phase, officials said. During this segment, the handlers and dogs learn how to work with a team, how to mount and dismount from vehicles and to master the timing of their movements. The handlers wear their kits, which weigh 70 to 80 pounds, to understand what maneuvering in full gear in the desert with their dog feels like.
"The handlers need to get themselves conditioned here so that when they get over to Afghanistan, they're going to be stronger, faster and better able to handle the situations presented to them," said Master Sgt. Andrew Rodriguez, assigned to the 902nd Security Forces Squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
Now that the test group has completed the MWD program, the handlers and their dogs will be sent all over the world, but most will go to Afghanistan, officials said. The handlers and dogs will be linked up to various units, such as security forces teams and Army units, and handlers will be responsible for articulating their dog's abilities to the team or squadron leader.
"The handlers and military working dogs perform an invaluable service, and it is our hope that this new training program will provide the best avenue for these security forces members to learn, train and perform their job," Chief Dewitt said.
Nellis AFB is scheduled to host nine classes per year with 20 MWD teams each, officials said.