Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
5/5/2012 – JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — The U.S. Air Force selected 10 of its best military working dog handler teams to compete in the 2012 Department of Defense Military Working Dog K-9 Trials here May 3-5.
The Air Force makes up 10 of the 43 teams for the first DoD competition to be held in the past 10 years.
The Air Force traditionally hosts the competition because the service is the executive agency for the DoD Military Working Dog Program. Through the 341st Training Squadron at JBSA-Lackland, the Air Force provides trained military working dogs, handlers, trainers and kennel masters for all the military services as well as other government agencies.
After 9/11, Air Force MWD teams deployed at a rate that took hosting and competing in the competition, to a secondary priority to the real-world experiences they were getting in their deployed environments, said Senior Master Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, Air Education and Training Command MWD program manager.
Today, the competition is back on, he said. The training the Airmen complete during the competition prepares them for future real-world scenarios and builds camaraderie amongst the Airmen.
“It’s great to get our guys out there and compete against the best the DoD has to offer,” said Capt. Grant Fyall, 341st Training Squadron here.
Of the 10 teams the Air Force selected to participate, six were from AETC.
“Last year we had 30 percent of our military working dog teams deployed on JET [Joint Expeditionary Tasked Airmen] tasking’s outside the wire,” Rodriguez said. “We have guys here from AETC that came back with bronze stars and have seen a lot of action.”
As the Airmen came together from around the country to compete, there was a common sense of pride throughout the event.
“I came here to do my best,” said Staff Sgt. Lindsay Thomas, a dog handler from the 56th SFS at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. “It is truly an honor to be invited here and know that your kennel master has confidence in you to succeed.”
Whether succeeding, learning or simply having fun, the Air Force MWD handlers all had one thing in common; pride in their service and pride in their job. The Air Force teams had the option of wearing any one of four regular or deployment uniforms from the classic Airman Battle Uniform to the Army Combat Uniform.
“I chose to wear the ABU print because it represents the Air Force and our branch of service in front of others,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Zantene, 802nd SFS dog handler. “It’s awesome to come out here with other MWD handlers and learn from each other,” he said. “It’s amazing to have the opportunity to come out and compete in the Super Bowl of dog handling.”