HomeNewsArticle Display

Not your average wingman

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Topa, a 374 SFS MWD, perform security checks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 24, 2015. Topa is Galbraith's first canine partner outside of training, and they have been working together for one year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class David C. Danford)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Topa, a 374 SFS MWD, perform security checks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 24, 2015. Topa is Galbraith's first canine partner outside of training, and they have been working together for one year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class David C. Danford)

Topa, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, looks to his handler at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 29, 2015. When not actively performing their duties, MWDs are trained to focus on their handler and await further instructions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David C. Danford)

Topa, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, looks to his handler at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 29, 2015. When not actively performing their duties, MWDs are trained to focus on their handler and await further instructions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David C. Danford)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his MWD partner, Topa, after performing vehicle checks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 24, 2015. Positive reinforcement is one of the primary means of training MWDs and encouraging good behavior. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class David C. Danford)

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, a 374th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his MWD partner, Topa, after performing vehicle checks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 24, 2015. Positive reinforcement is one of the primary means of training MWDs and encouraging good behavior. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class David C. Danford)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Every day as the sun rises above the horizon, Yokota Air Base's defenders are already hard at work keeping the base safe. Their day begins when they are assigned a patrol car, protective equipment and their partner. Just like in civilian law enforcement, military patrolmen place their lives in their partner's hands, forging bonds of trust and respect. The 374th Security Forces military working dog handlers take that bond to the next level; the dog isn't just their partner, the dog is family.

Kennel masters across the Air Force diligently study personality profiles of their charges, human and canine, to form the best teams possible. Such is the case with Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, a 374 SFS MWD handler, and his partner, Topa.

"Dogs, just like people, have their own personalities, and Topa and I have the same kind of mentality," Galbraith said. "He's very high drive. He's the kind of dog that when he needs something he'll go straight for it, and I understand that."

As a Belgian Malinois, Topa doesn't possess the jaw strength of a German shepherd, but makes up for it with his boundless energy and fighting spirit according to Galbraith. Like all Air Force defenders, Topa was trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, where that fighting spirit cost him half an ear during rough play with the other MWDs. He began to show signs of a dog-aggressive nature. This worked out perfectly for Galbraith.

"When I went back to Lackland for training, both dogs that were assigned to me showed dog-aggressive tendencies." Galbraith said. "It's almost like I was being trained to work with Topa from the start."

According to Galbraith, the personalities of both the handler and the dog are important when forming teams. A large disconnect between the two can cause a pair of otherwise talented individuals to form a lackluster partnership. Learning how to read the emotions and mindset of the animal is just one way that handlers can work to bridge that gap.

"My boy has a lot of energy," Galbraith said proudly, patting Topa's head. "If he was placed with a more laidback handler he'd either be really bored or walk all over that handler."

High drive and energy isn't solely Topa's domain. Galbraith is a self-proclaimed fitness guru who practices martial arts, including muay thai, as a form of stress relief and to maintain his physical well-being.

"Being physically, mentally, spiritually and socially fit is just as important for the dog," Galbraith said. "The whole Airman concept applies to them too because they have to deal with the same stressors we do and sometimes more."

To be prepared for working with his four-legged wingman, Galbraith was given emergency field veterinary care similar to the self-aid and buddy care taught to Airmen in basic military training. This is just one more way in which MWDs are comparable to their human counterparts. Despite all of these similarities, handlers must always remember their partner isn't human.

"Sometimes it's easy to forget that they really are just dogs and still do dog things like sniffing and marking territory," Galbraith said. "It's their pack mentality which makes the MWDs loyal to their handler before anyone else."

Topa is Galbraith's first canine partner outside of training, and they have been working together for one year. Handlers in the Air Force are assigned a different MWD at each base they are assigned to, in contrast to the other branches of service where a team is only broken when one of the members separates from the military.

"Yokota is my first base as a K-9 handler, and Topa's the first K-9 I've worked with," Galbraith said. "I got lucky with him, he's an awesome dog. I'm sure everyone says that about their dog but I truly believe I couldn't have gotten a better partner."

Engage

Twitter
Beginning April 19th, the @DeptofDefense will make COVID-19 Vaccine appointments available to all who are authorize… https://t.co/7bofo3TmnQ
Twitter
The @DeptofDefense’s desired outcome for the Arctic is a secure and stable region. @HQAirUniversity is seeking jour… https://t.co/fyflQtyHtj
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Collecting, processing & sharing data faster than a competitor provides a decisive advantage. The Advanced Battle Manage…
Twitter
Purple Up! Today, everyone is encouraged to wear purple to show support for military children who overcome so many… https://t.co/ibXSWprtai
Twitter
.@Team_Tinker, @HillAFBUtah and @366FW #Airmen participated in the Exercise Agile Thunder 21-02, designed to sharpe… https://t.co/kvRhWgb1Ig
Twitter
Happy Birthday Air Force Reserve! The @usafreserve's mission is to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight and… https://t.co/S0gU4oBfaO
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: In honor of #NationalWeldingMonth we salute our experts across the command who keep our platforms and systems #mission ready!…
Twitter
“This change will improve @Andrews_JBA’s ability to build multi-capable Airmen now and into the future as we work t… https://t.co/YfXlpIiY20
Twitter
“Everything AFCENT does starts and ends with the coalition.” - Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force… https://t.co/zT7pORj54Z
Twitter
“Mobility is increasingly playing an integral role in executing Agile Combat Employment, ensuring the Joint Force c… https://t.co/uZ4Jgy9soG
Twitter
We help our Airmen reach their full potential by putting #SafetyFirst. Congratulations and great job, all! #AimHigh https://t.co/5uLCs8dbBC
Twitter
Our military families experience a lot of changes, especially the children, and in April we celebrate the Month of… https://t.co/JrlVxzEbRB
Twitter
"We've made a lot of advances in the past few years, like opening up career fields in many countries to women, but… https://t.co/Hf2rblbuWZ
Twitter
"As a healthcare worker to say that ‘I trust it’, I’m going to demonstrate that I trust it and at the same time I t… https://t.co/F3Obpb8ciH
Twitter
.@AirNatlGuard and active-duty Airmen were deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan to conduct Dynamic F… https://t.co/LUzcvqyM9V
Twitter
#ICYMI - The #AirForce and @DoDSpaceForce is seeking feedback through a survey for the second Independent Disparity… https://t.co/E4tjTSXUEF
Twitter
RT @WrightPattAFB: Airmen provide vaccinations “These Airmen are so excited to be part of the solution for our nation to effectively move b…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,342,615
Follow Us