Airmen work hand-in-paw with four-legged wingmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The bond between man and dog is a special one, dating back to times when wolves and men would hunt together. Through years of evolution and change, the relationship between dogs and humans has grown stronger.

Despite evolving technology of surveillances and detection, the skill of a trained working dog and his or her handler remains unrivalled when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of the bases and resources around the world. The relationship and the trust between the pair are what make the mission work.

Opportunities to join these elite crews are limited. The Andersen Air Force Base teams train on a daily basis to keep their skills up-to-date, minds sharp, and bonds strong.

"The work to become a military working dog handler is intense," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Toliver, the 36th Security Forces Squadron kennel master.

On top of two years of security forces service and meeting certain job training requirements, Airmen must also submit an application package, he said. Only after being accepted, can they attend the dog handler training.

One of Andersen AFB's most established teams consists of Staff Sgt. Eric Serviss, a 36th SFS dog handler, and his K-9 partner Johny, who have worked together for almost two years. Despite their experience together, they are considered to be a green team, since both dog and handler had little to no experience with the K-9 program before their assignment.

"Johny is Serviss' first dog, and Serviss is Johny's first handler," Toliver explained. "Those two clicked immediately after being partnered together. They work great together and trust each other."

Johny is a German shepherd, one of three breeds typically used in Defense Department police work. The other two include the Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherd.

"Johny motivates me, works hard and has helped me mature as a dog handler," Serviss said.

Picking Johny was a great learning experience for the team because they got to learn how to work together and become efficient in their job, he said.

Before he teamed up with Johny, the Airman cared for the dogs of other handlers and ensured they exercised and received attention when their handlers were away or off duty.

There are three main jobs a MWD can do: patrol, bomb and narcotics detection. Day-to-day training involves honing these skills and building rapport between handler and dog.

The Andersen AFB kennels are one of the largest out of more than 70 facilities across the Air Force.

While the dogs may remind many of the homebound pets of base housing, these trained workers are a force to be reckoned with at all times.

"I think people just need to be aware that these dogs are not pets," said Staff Sgt. Adrian Chavez, a 36th SFS dog handler trainer. "We love them like pets, but they are our partners. You could look at it like a regular security forces team ... You aren't going to walk up and just pet some guy's partner."