Four legged Airmen: Key to safety and security

  • Published
  • By By Tech Sgt. Erica Picariello
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs

On Jan. 8, 2020, one of the gates on Peterson Air Force Base closed, causing increased traffic and backups for individuals trying to navigate in and around Marksheffel and Peterson Road. This was due to a military working dog indicating within seconds that a vehicle was trying to enter the installation with possible explosives.

That information could cause shock and horror, leading some to wonder, “What was this nefarious person trying to bring onto the installation?”

The answer: A backpack.

Now, confusion could set-in to those minds who immediately scoff and might muse that the dog made a mistake and caused an unnecessary delay.

According to 21st Space Wing Security Forces leadership, this was no mistake. The dog indicated that a non-explosive backpack was dangerous because military working dogs are highly-trained, expert Airmen who are charged to defy concealment and identify incoming threats.

“Our military working dogs are highly trained experts on our security team,” said Timothy Omdal, 21st Security Forces Squadron deputy director. “Due to their olfactory system being more developed and sensitive than humans, they can detect what we can’t. In this case, it was an average backpack that was also recently used to transport the individual’s personal weapons to and from a range.”

Peterson’s military working dogs aren’t just assets to gate sentries, they also train and perform operations around the installation.

“Our security forces defenders are more than just base ‘police’ – they’re charged with being the first line of defense for Peterson Air Force Base as a whole to ensure space combat and base operations,” Omdal said.

According to an article from the United States Department of Defense from November 22, 2017, military working dogs are chosen as puppies and immersed in training after their first birthday. The key to their specialized skill set is teamwork with their handler. Downrange, these canines are expected to lead patrols and convoys.

It can be easy to get frustrated trying to enter the installation before the duty day when met with delays or a closed gate, but remember that furry four-legged Airmen are charged as the first line of defense are working their tails off to provide an extra layer of protection.

”These canines train daily with their handlers on a consistent basis, in any weather, day and night,” Omdal said. “It is not uncommon to see them with their handlers at any time and at any location around the installation as part of training and deterrence. So, if you experience a delay at the gate, be patient.”