In-processing for MWDs can be 'ruff'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany M. Grigg
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs Office

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series on military working dogs at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.)

In-processing: A word known all too well amongst military members. With the weeks of paperwork, medical clearances and other integrating requirements, one might say being the new guy is quite 'ruff'.

When it comes to in-processing the base, the 23d Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dogs (MWD) are no exception.

"When the dogs get here from [Lackland Air Force Base, TX.], we let them sit for two weeks and acclimate to the weather," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Catey, 23d SFS MWD handler. "After the two weeks is up, a month of rapport building begins, which involves the new handler taking the dog on walks, initiating play and allowing the dog to become comfortable with the handler and receptive to the handler's actions and voice."

The 23d SFS kennel received Marco, a German Shepherd, and Nido, a Belgian Malinois, in December 2013, the newest recruits to the Moody K-9 family of seven.

"Marco and Nido were on the same team at Lackland AFB and even lived in the same trailer," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Frederick, 23d SFS MWD trainer. "The last dog we received was MWD Hill in 2011 so we were very fortunate to receive both of them."

For Catey, Marco will be his first dog. He is tasked with training Marco the essentials of being an MWD.

"[Marco] is a detection and patrol dog. For training we do a lot of bite work and detection, [which builds] on the basic skills he learned at the dog school, ensuring proficiency before advancing to new skills."

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Tiger, 23d SFS MWD Nido's handler, has high expectations for his new companion as well as himself.

"I want Nido to be the top dog of the kennel," said Tiger. "I want him to be proficient in every aspect of his job, but in [lieu of that], it's up to me to take him from what he is and mold him into that top dog I know he can be."

To be a fully qualified MWD, Marco and Nido must complete training blocks that are set over a minimum of 90 days, however, ultimately it is up to the trainer and kennel master to decide if they are deployment ready.

"There is no set timeline for [the dogs being] deployment ready," said Frederick. "It is up to [the kennel master and me] to decide if a team is ready to take on a job of that nature. They have 90 days total to certify on their dog in detection and patrol work and they must be validated and certified before they can deploy, so at a bare minimum they must at least have 90 days with the dog."

MWD's careers typically last up to nine years. With Marco and Nido being just over two years old, they have a long journey ahead of them.

"We're working with [Marco and Nido] Monday through Friday," said Catey. "Tiger and I will come up to the kennels on weekends too, to let the dogs run around and burn some energy so they aren't locked up all weekend."

"We want them to be the best they can be," added Tiger. "...and they're not going to learn anything if we don't teach them. It's up to us to make them the best."

With in-processing behind them, Marco and Nido can focus on their training and further integration with their new handlers.