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NEWS | Aug. 23, 2017

Showcasing excellence: The “Iron Dawg” champions

By Airman 1st Class Anthony Nin Leclerec 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

On a daily basis, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrie Kennedy, 633rd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner, Toni, 633rd SFS MWD, work hard to keep Joint Base Langley-Eustis safe.

This hard work and dedication led them to place first in the “Iron Dawg” competition hosted by Naval Air Station Oceana, July 31, 2017.

“We had a few weeks in advance to practice for the competition,” said Kennedy. “But even so, we’re always ready. We always practice here within the kennels, between each other or with different bases.”

At home station, they usually work at the search pit, inspect vehicles, patrol, and respond to alarms and emergencies, but for the competition, they were given four different challenges.

The first challenge was a three-mile run, and the second was basic obedience coupled with a tactical obedience course with obstacles.

“The third challenge was detection, which I think is the bread and butter of our job,” said Kennedy of the task that tested their ability to find bombs in the quickest and most proficient way.

The fourth and final challenge was patrol work, where the dog’s ability to attack a suspect with controlled aggression was challenged.

According to Kennedy, events like this provide him with the opportunity to see how other handlers train and work together, allowing them to learn from one another, and share techniques and ideas.

“A lot people don’t understand what it takes to be a dog handler,” said Tech Sgt. Jared Johnson, 633rd SFS kennel master. “Some people have this idea that you can just show up, grab a dog and go to work. Being a dog handler takes a lot of training, bonding and behind the scenes work that the average person doesn’t see.”

For Kennedy, working with his MWD to protect the people and assets of JBLE is rewarding, but takes diligence and patience.

“Me and my dog can work together and if we have a bad five minutes with each other, he forgets about it ten minutes later and we press forward,” said Kennedy. “Meanwhile, people can hold grudges long after an incident.”

However, Kennedy explains that not being able to talk with Toni like a human can be challenging, but through constant drill and rehearse, they overcome communication barriers enabling them to better accomplish the MWD mission.

 “Within our career field we are very competitive; from the guy standing at the gate, to our most seasoned patrolman and to our leadership—that’s why we can do the things we do,” said Johnson. “When we have a guy like Kennedy and his MWD get first place, that’s huge for us because he gets to carry the banner for a little bit and showcase a capability that every Department of Defense installation has, but he showed up and excelled. Our senior leadership is very proud of him.”