Airman puts trust in the paws of partner

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Hunter
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

One military working dog handler and his canine were on day three of a hike in 120 degree weather. The team was leading a group of special forces members through the mountains of Afghanistan when they intercepted enemy radio traffic specifying an attack planned for the Airman and his dog.

Tensions were rising as the handler approached a creek. Once his dog was across, he instantly knew something was wrong. Because of their close bond, the Airman was able to notice a subtle sign from his furry friend that an explosive may be present.

After calling the dog back, the team needed a plan. Unsure of precisely where the hazard may be, a special forces member tossed C-4 into the area where the MWD previously stood. The team watched as an explosion blew sand, metal and debris high into the air, a blast larger than any average C-4 detonation. The MWD had discovered an explosive device that had been planted specifically for his handler.

His four-legged partner had just saved his life.

Moments like this can create an unbreakable bond and cement the trust between MWD handlers and their dogs.

“When we were on our mission that day, Alex was walking around almost as if he wasn’t even searching and then, out of nowhere, signaled that he found something,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Sexton, 23d Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. “It was because of the bond we shared that I knew his behavior was different.”

As a new handler, Sexton hadn’t previously had to rely on his MWD dog, Alex, but after the life-saving event he experienced that day, he had built a foundation of trust that would carry over to all his future MWD partners.

“If my dog had not found that explosive in Afghanistan, I may not be here to tell the story today.” said Sexton. “Ever since then, I have had full faith that our dogs are always on the clock and, as my partner, they will always have my back.

“It made me more trusting in the dog’s abilities rather than having to be in control all the time,” Sexton added. “I always trusted the dogs based on the training I had witnessed, but after the experience I had with Alex, I have no doubt that our MWDs will be able to find something if it’s there and save lives.”

Sexton’s opinion is not unique, rather it is shared among all MWD handlers.

“The MWDs don’t have any fear about what is happening,” said Staff Sgt. Devin Tiger, 23d SFS MWD trainer. “They’ll go into any room looking for the bad guy, even if that means sacrificing their own life.”

Sexton witnessed this same attitude following his permanent change of station to Moody and his confidence in the MWD’s capabilities made his transition to his new canine partner, MWD Nido, nearly effortless. Sexton was able to become certified with Nido in only eight days, a task that can take up to 90 days for other teams.

“Even though I haven’t been with Nido as long as I was with Alex, just seeing how Nido works and how we work together makes me trust him a little more because I’m more confident with him,” said Sexton. “Nido and I clicked instantly and our bond grows stronger with each day we spend together.”

Sexton’s growing bond with Nido will play an important role as the two deploy to Southwest Asia to fulfill a base security operations mission. He credits his trust in Nido back to the day his first partner, Alex, saved his life.

“I have full faith in Nido as my partner during our upcoming deployment to protect me, as well as anyone around us, just as Alex did before.”