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Jaws and paws of justice

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- There is a select group within the 28th Security Forces Squadron who have a special knack for sniffing out trouble and tracking down bad guys that goes above and beyond that of their two-legged counterparts.

The 28th SFS Military Working Dog section is comprised of a handful of highly-trained teams who enforce military laws and regulations along with supporting many other real world operations. Teams consist of a security forces handler and a specially selected and trained dog.

The teams add significant capabilities to the overall mission at Ellsworth. "The dogs at the kennel have the capability to find drugs, bombs and enforce apprehension techniques," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Thomas, 28th SFS military working dog trainer.

Military working dog units perform a variety of tasks that range from routine security checks to being deployed and assisting in high risk operations around the globe. Dogs like Jecky, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois who holds the rank of master sergeant, are trained to aid in and conduct a variety of security forces activities. Like all Air Force military working dogs, she attended and graduated from canine training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas before being assigned to Ellsworth.

Just like their human counterparts, the military working dogs here at Ellsworth work normal duty days. They train and work hours on patrol just as much as their handlers, it's a team effort and the canines are not treated any differently than any other servicemember. The duty day for the canines begins with their respective handler arriving at the kennel, gives the dog a break, and begins the dog's training and operations.

To help prepare their canine partners for real world operations, trainers utilize many training techniques, including line drills that train the dog to let go and release on command and apprehension situations that train the dog on a variety of suspect circumstances. A special obedience course is set up at the kennel on base that allows the dogs and their handlers train for all types of situations and terrain.

Military working dog handlers not only lead the training, but oftentimes participate in the sessions by playing the "bad" guy.

"The first couple of times it's terrifying, but after awhile, it's fun" said Tech. Sgt. Randy Jensen, 28th SFS military working dog handler.

Despite the fact that the dogs and their handlers are not partnered for life, the process for pairing a military working dog and a handler is taken very seriously. The personalities and abilities of both the handler and canine are considered in order to make the strongest teams. It may be a short-lived pairing, but regardless, the military working dog and their handler work together to implement safe procedures, save lives and accomplish the Air Force mission.

"To train K-9s for real world operations and see them succeed and save lives because of my efforts is the most rewarding part of my job," said Thomas.