MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Prior to joining the military, he knew he had a passion for working with dogs and even became a part of security forces to specifically get into the K-9 unit.
Now as Moody’s newest dog handler, Senior Airman Steven Goff feels honored to have made it through the selection process and to be working with Ttoby, a military working dog.
“I knew I wanted to do this job because I wanted to see the amazing things these animals can do,” said Goff. “I tried to do everything I could to get into K-9. You just have to hope that there’s slots open. I was lucky because while I was putting together my package, the Air Force was doing a force retrain within the security forces career field. So, since I was volunteering for K-9, I was almost guaranteed to go in.”
Staff Sgt. Lyndsay Gebhart, a 23d SFS military working dog trainer, agreed the K-9 career field is not the easiest to get into, but she ensures Airmen are fully committed to working as a handler.
“First, you have to have your five level and be in your window to retrain,” said Gebhart. “You also need a letter of recommendation from your base’s kennel. Here, I have material I want possible dog handlers to study before I give them a letter of recommendation. I also require them to help clean the kennel and be decoys during dog training. It helps them realize the amount of stress that can constantly be put on their bodies while working with dogs.”
Goff was already aware the impact working with dogs can have on him and the range of capabilities they possess. His family owned bird dogs while he was growing up and he was an assistant service dog trainer when he was in high school. Working in the K-9 unit only expanded his knowledge.
“A lot of times people see the K-9 police and they think of dogs going to bite people, but they do more than just that,” said Goff. “They can find bombs or drugs, and possibly even humans.”
Goff is currently training to be able to work with Ttoby to find all the aids the dog is able to detect, such as explosives, within a detection course. Through trying to complete his validation training, Goff has experienced the difficulty of having a dog as his wingman.
“The most challenging part of my validation training is understanding that dogs aren’t just equipment or tools,” said Goff. “I have to remember they are also living breathing creatures. They have their Mondays. They can have injuries. They can have problems I don’t know about because the dog can’t talk to me. So, I have to try to figure it out and that’s the hardest part.”
In addition to learning how to empathize with Ttoby, this experience has also taught Goff to have patience.
“Patience is a very big thing when it comes to working with a dog,” said Goff. “I have to step into every day and see what the outcome of it is going to be. Somedays we can train and everything will be solid. All the tasks get performed and we can check all the boxes, but I could go out another day and the dog might not do as well.”
However, Goff still enjoys working with Ttoby and being a dog handler.
“I’m excited to be working with Ttoby and officially a part of the K-9 unit, it’s a crucial asset to the mission and it allows me to do things the regular security forces career field doesn’t offer.”