Dover's four-legged wingmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Samuel Taylor
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
If you ask an Airman how his day at work was, he might say: "rough."

If you asked one of these servicemembers how their day at work was, they would most likely say: "ruff!"

Airmen are required to be clean-shaven at all times while in uniform.

For these servicemembers, shaving waivers are mandatory.

These unique members of Team Dover are 436th Security Forces Squadron's military working dogs, who keep Dover Air Forces Base, Del., safe from threats on a daily basis.

"These dogs are on call 24/7," said Staff Sgt. Adam Fike, 436 SFS military working dog trainer. "They're job is to find danger before people do."

Sergeant Fike is responsible for overseeing the training of Dover AFB's nine MWDs, and monitors the transition period when dogs meet their new handlers.

Dover AFB's MWDs are responsible for scanning the base for narcotics, explosives and other dangers. They are instrumental in checking more than 100 vehicles that enter through the base's commercial gate on a daily basis. In addition, MWDs are among the essential personnel on alert when distinguished visitors are on base.

"Dover presents a unique challenge to our dogs because of the massive amount of cargo the base processes," said Sergeant Fike. "Last year MWDs completed more than 20,000 searches."

Comprehensive training, beginning at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, allows MWDs to accomplish these tasks.

"MWDs, like new Airman, leave Lackland [AFB] trained in the basics of what the military expects of them," said Sergeant Fike. "They are taught obedience, discipline and simple commands."

Once MWDs arrive at their assigned duty location, they are trained on the specific tasks they will be expected to perform. At Dover AFB, the responsibility for keeping the dogs mission-ready falls on Sergeant Fike and the team of dog handlers.

"The teaching and supervision provider by the dog trainers is critical," said Sergeant Fike. "Without training, these dogs are just pets on a leash."

Their training enables MWDs to work across the base in support of base agencies including the Aerial Port and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. However, their importance is not limited to members of Dover AFB.

"When police working dogs are unavailable to respond to threats off base, our dogs are often called in to lend support," said Sergeant Fike.

The 436 SFS also supports redeploying MWD teams across the world by processing them directly through Dover AFB instead of sending them to other bases when they arrive. The 436 SFS handles the team's gear, stows the dogs, and gets the handlers into a motel or home as soon as possible.

"This service is done out- of-pocket, and has saved 2,600 manpower-days," said Sergeant Fike. "We do it simply because it's the right thing to do."