New Paws on the Ground

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis Pentzer
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Beale’s K-9 unit recently welcomed a 66 pound, friendly Belgian Malinois into the unit. Military Working Dog (MWD) Azur is a new narcotics detection dog and was brought in to replace one of the other dogs in the unit when they retired.

The competency on a MWD relies on the relationship between dog and handler. The on-the-job training (OJT) period is where the handler can accurately assess the dog’s ability to remember which scents they need to recognize and how well they respond to commands in the field. Building a relationship with each other is crucial to this process.

“Making sure she recognizes me is what creates the bond,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gracia Bolainez, 9th SFS K-9 handler. “Matching her needs when she's having a hard time and making sure she can come to me are what builds that relationship.”

Bolainez takes time every day to bond with MWD Azur so they can be as efficient as they can when they are out in the field. Spending time taking walks, grooming and making sure MWD Azur is eating well are all ways that they can build a good working relationship together.

“The biggest challenge is getting the dog in and reintegrating them,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Tullis, 9th SFS kennel master. “Some dogs will go two or three months after their training before being exposed back to the odors they were trained on. MWD Azur is still pretty fresh from her training so she remembers everything.”

MWD Azur is currently in the 75 day field evaluation training period to ensure that she can do the tasks she was originally trained to do. Bolainez uses the Qualified MWD Field Transition and Evaluation Guideline book to train MWD Azur and is currently on stage 4 of the training. They are working on obedience and control aggression, which is training on how to attack someone and seeing how the dog handles that.

The guideline book is used to reference potential issues in the training that the handler may have with their dog during each stage of training. Bolainez and MWD Azur have been meeting the requirements for the training with minimal issues.

“This is where we build the foundation of a brand-new dog,” said Tullis. “So, when that dog gets paired with someone else later on, all that work will show and hopefully make it easier on the next handler.”

As the only drug detection dog with the 9th SFS, MWD Azur is an essential part of the unit and ensures the 9th SFS is able to complete all duties required of them to keep Beale AFB safe.