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    4th SFS’ newest team protect, defend base

    4th SFS’ newest team protect, defend base

    Photo By Airman 1st Class Shawna Keyes | Senior Airman Austin Craven, 4th Security Forces Squadron military working dog...... read more read more

    NC, UNITED STATES

    09.18.2015

    Story by Airman 1st Class Shawna Keyes 

    4th Fighter Wing

    For Senior Airman Austin Craven, the day begins with the sound of barking and wagging tails before the sun even rises.

    “Hey buddy! How you been boy?” Craven says in a high-pitched voice.

    As he slides a collar on his four-legged wingman, Craven heads for the exit, followed closely by the source of the barking sounds and tail wagging. After a quick stint of exercise, Craven grabs his gear, complete with tactical vest, Kevlar and radio, as well as a bowl and chew toy. Next, it’s on to the patrol car.

    This will be the routine for Craven, a 4th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner in crime, MWD Ronni, for the foreseeable future as they build a bond of friendship and a partnership of trust, working side by side to protect the members of Team Seymour.

    “I love being around dogs all day,” Craven said. “That eight to nine hours I’m on shift doesn’t really feel like work. I can’t picture myself doing anything else but working as a military working dog handler.”

    Craven began his Air Force career as a security forces Airman in 2010 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Now, almost five years and three deployments later, he was finally granted an opportunity to live his dream job after he was accepted into the Department of Defense MWD School at Joint-Base San Antonio, Texas, in October 2014.

    “I didn’t even know K-9 was an option,” Craven said of when he decided to join the Air Force. “The day I left for basic training, I went into my recruiter’s office and saw a life size cardboard cutout of an Airman with a dog on a leash and I asked him what that was, and he told me that was security forces and that was their K-9 section. I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do.”

    After completing the 11-week course, Craven was assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB and arrived on station in January 2015. After completing Airman Leadership School and other training requirements, he was paired up with MWD Ronni, a Dutch Shepard, in May.

    “Senior Airman Craven is a welcomed addition to our kennels and we are happy to have him,” said Tech. Sgt. Forrest George, 4th SFS kennel master. “He recently made staff sergeant so we will be demanding more from him as he continues to grow. He is paired up with our only Dutch Shepherd and they are spinning up faster than the average new team. In fact, myself and Staff Sgt. [John] Makripodis believe he has come together with MWD Ronni faster than any previous handler on that dog.”

    Craven and Ronni have spent countless hours working together both on- and off-duty to become a solidified unit. He noted that handlers must spend numerous hours training to ensure their dog is 100 percent mission capable.

    “Ronni is a very easy dog to deal with,” Craven said. “He is very respectful to people and their space when we’re out and about around base. “He has a great nose for detection, and he loves bite work. It doesn’t get much better for him, although I may be a little partial.”

    Ronni, who is a near 3-year veteran at Seymour Johnson AFB, is Craven’s first canine partner outside of his training dogs at the DOD MWD School, where he learned how to work with MWDs and perform various procedures.

    As part of their training together, Craven and Ronni are required to be proficient in multiple types of procedures, all of which require refresher training and requalification on a continual basis. One of the more difficult procedures is validation testing, which evaluates the team on their ability to detect explosive odors.

    “Validations are more challenging than regular training and prove the team to be reliable at a minimum of 95 percent proficient, and all our teams here are at 100 percent,” George said.

    Along with validation testing, Craven must be proficient in training Ronni to attack on command, which involves pursuing biting and holding a perpetrator until the handler gives the command to release.

    Ronni is also trained to pick up on more than 12,000 possible explosive odor related combinations.

    Although they’ve only been working together for a short time, Craven said the bond he’s developed with Ronni is everything he dreamed it would be when he decided he wanted to become an MWD handler.

    “I love my job and Ronni is both an awesome dog and partner,” Craven said. “We’ve only been working together for about four months, but we’ve come together really well and I’m looking forward to continuing to work together and growing closer as a military working dog team.”

    Their alliance may still be fresh, but with each passing day, this dynamic duo only grow stronger, closer together and dependent on each other. This is more than man’s best friend … This is a partnership. Six legs, four eyes, two hearts, one team.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 09.18.2015
    Date Posted: 09.21.2015 10:10
    Story ID: 176714
    Location: NC, US

    Web Views: 91
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