Wingmen: Security forces look after military working dogs

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nathanael Callon
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every day Airmen take care of each other, and the 52nd Security Forces Squadron's military working dog handlers have a furry wingman that requires a little extra care during the winter at Spangdahlem Air Base.

"There are a few extra precautions we have to take during the winter months while working and training the canines," Staff Sgt. William Washer, 52nd SFS military working dog handler, said.

The winters in Germany are typically accompanied by bitter cold and freezing precipitation, which can pose a hazard to the dogs.

"Just because they have a fur coat doesn't mean the dogs don't get cold," Sergeant Washer said.

Some of the younger canines, especially the ones coming from training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, are more sensitive to the cold than the older, seasoned dogs who have spent at least one winter in Germany.

"We let the dogs play in the obstacle course to familiarize and acclimate themselves with the snow and the cold weather," Sergeant Washer said. "Forcing them to play or work in harsh conditions can have an adverse affect on their training, so we let them figure it out at their own pace."

The dog's handler also uses this time to bond with his dog.

"I take the opportunity to play fetch with Robson (a 5-year-old German Shepherd)," said Staff Sgt. David Simpson, who has been Robson's handler for two years. "It's just like any other relationship; the handler and the dog's relationship is built on trust."

Spangdahlem's military working dogs are critical to base defense and are skilled in explosives detection, narcotics investigation and attack capabilities. Regardless of the weather, the dog and handler must put the mission first.

A common problem with the winter is the salt on roads and other surfaces which irritates the dog's skin.

"While on duty we are constantly cleaning the dog's paws and underbelly so the salt doesn't hurt them," Sergeant Washer added.

When the weather is really cold, the handler can initiate a work/rest cycle for the dog.

"This actually works for both the handler and the dog, since the handler still has to perform law enforcement duties," Sergeant Simpson explained. "This time gives the dog a chance to warm up and the ability to continue working."

Knowing Robson's limits and capabilities helps Sergeant Simpson know how to take better care of his work partner and friend.

"Robson knows that he can trust me, and that I will take care of him," Sergeant Simpson said. "In return, I can count on him to do the same for me."