Bringing up Iras

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tara Fadenrecht
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Not every dog is cut out to be a Military Working Dog. So far, Iras, a two-year old Belgian Malinois and McConnell Air Force Base's newest MWD, has proven that he has the right temperament and work ethic to continue his training.

Like most MWDs, Iras' career began at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. It is here that potential MWD's are either born or purchased from different contractors and vendors.

At about six-months old, they are introduced to basic tests, such as the ability to tolerate minimal gunfire, that help determine each dog's potential for success in the career field, said Tech. Sgt. Max Soto, 22nd Security Forces Squadron kennel master.

These tests only proved that Iras was ready to enter into the MWD program and begin training.

"He was a candidate to be operational," said Soto. "He's a prime case of a dog that went through, made it, had no issues, and then got sent to us."

After a year and a half of training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Iras was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base and is now in the beginning stages of becoming dual certified in the areas of attack and narcotic detection.

Iras will undergo some basic training exercises to introduce him to his new job.

"Iras still really doesn't understand his purpose," added Soto. "We're trying to get him into a routine. It takes a little bit of time but he's already pretty ahead of the game."

Iras tagged along with an older dog during a recent training scenario.

"We actually just took him out a couple days ago and ran a detection problem along with one of our more experienced dogs just to kind of see where he's at and let him run the same exact training problem," said Staff Sgt. Michael Urquhart, 22nd SFS military working dog trainer. "It went really well."

Phase-one training will begin once a handler is assigned to Iras and the two will spend the first two weeks bonding and building rapport and loyalty, said Soto.

The training that Iras and his handler will partake in throughout the first phase will include narcotic detection exercises. The goal is to find at least 90 percent of training aids of any weight that are hidden anywhere, at any height, and packaged in any way, said Urquhart.

Along with detection training, Iras will also undergo patrol training.

Iras will be able to carry out specific commands, such as "sit," "down" and "stay", without any verbal commands. Instead, his handler will use hand and arm signals to give orders.

Patrol training also includes what is known as "bite work." During this portion of training, Iras will learn to track down and bite an individual who may be fleeing from authorities. He will also learn to respond to commands to stop biting and guard the individual when necessary, said Urquhart.

"We'll progress all of his training until we have absolute control so that he and his handler, with a minimum amount of communication, can navigate through a scenario," he said.

Iras and his handler must then pass the approval of Col. Michael Mendoza, 22nd Mission Support Group commander after meeting all of the requirements.

Once Mendoza has given his approval and signed off on the Beligian Malinois, Iras will officially be operational. Although he will continue to train and practice throughout the remainder of his career, Iras will be allowed to go out on real-world missions, said Soto.

He will be on the road a lot performing random anti-terrorist measures which include both foot and presence patrols, he said.

The life of a MWD team consists of long days, hard work, hours of training exercises and real life missions for both the dog and the handler.

Soto said Iras is only in the beginning stages of his career but his role is still very important. Soon he will be out in the field acting as a psychological deterrent toward potential adversaries, performing regular foot patrols, and maintaining the security of McConnell.