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Four defenders work like dogs

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Arkie inspects a truck at the vehicle search area at a forward-deployed location. The veteran military working dog with the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol, Arkie works with Staff Sgt. Louis Smith. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Nancy Kuck)

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Arkie inspects a truck at the vehicle search area at a forward-deployed location. The veteran military working dog with the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol, Arkie works with Staff Sgt. Louis Smith. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Nancy Kuck)

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Working like a dog. This simile relates to someone who works tirelessly throughout a busy day. For four exclusive members at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, "working like a dog" is more than a simile. It is their daily life.

Arkie, Tasja, Athos and Dutchy are part of the military working dog team at a forward-deployed location. These fabulous four put forth all their effort to ensure base residents sleep safer at night, protecting them from any explosive that may enter the base.

"The dogs go through extensive training before getting deployed here," said Staff Sgt. Damion Tineo, part of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Tasja. "Dogs are getting deployed now more than ever before," he said.

A three-month deployment is nothing new to these four dogs. Each of them has been in the area at least once before.

Arkie, who is designated as the veteran of the group, is currently on his fourth desert deployment according to his partner, Staff Sgt. Louis Smith, 380 ESFS K-9 patrol. The only German shepherd here, Arkie is the oldest dog of the four.

The military working dogs are treated in the same manner that their trainers are when arriving in theater. "When the dogs arrive here, they have to get adjusted to the new environment as we do," said Staff Sgt. Robert Odom, a handler with the 380th ESFS K-9 patrol who is teamed up with Dutchy. "They are just like people, (and) they get stressed out too," he said. Their days here include lengthy hours and rotating shifts at the vehicle search area. It is here where people can see these base members examine vehicles for any suspicious materials.

"Their instincts are 10 times better than ours," said Tineo. "They are awesome with their senses."

Training never stops for the dogs while they are here. On days when they are not at the vehicle search area, they are either training in various areas such as patrol and protection, resting or just being dogs.

"We can't have them work all the time because it is not fair to them," said Odom. "We let them relax and make sure they are not always cooped up by coming in on our off days and letting them out to be dogs."

Their scheduled training revolves around two days of patrol exercises and two days of protection exercises. Done in various buildings throughout the base and on the flightline, the dogs participate in exercises where they are required to complete certain tasks. After accomplishing the required tasks, they get rewards that range from praise to squeaky toys.

Although these dogs appear approachable, these selective four are not family pets by any means and are not to be petted without permission by their trainers.

"A lot of people do not realize that these dogs are trained to attack," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Smith, who is teamed up with Athos. "These dogs are meant to be petted by their handlers, and if strange people just come up and pet our dogs ... they may lose their edge, and we are not going to let that happen."

Athos, Arkie, Dutchy and Tasja show base residents what it is really like to work like a dog.

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