Man and dog fight crime together

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Aileen Carter
  • Nellis Public Affairs
Protection, safety and trust are a few aspects that form the basis of a successful bond for any crime-fighting team, especially that of a Security Forces Military Working Dog member and his or her partner.

It was more than three years ago when Staff Sgt. Kenneth Williams, 99th Security Forces Military Working Dog section trainer, was paired with Kisma, a 55-pound Belgian Malinois.

Kisma was known for her take-charge personality and became popular at many canine demonstrations because of this, said Sergeant Williams.

At the time, Sergeant Williams was a new dog handler, while his four-legged partner was experienced.

"I learned a lot from Kisma," Sergeant Williams said. "Kisma was my first dog, and I was a green handler. She was by far not green at all."

As Sergeant Williams discovered, a rapport and trust must first be established before a handler or trainer can work with his or her partner. Building up to this point, however, presents some unique challenges.

"If you sit back and watch a dog, they will try to outsmart you," he said. "By being a handler, if you let your dog walk over you, then they will try to do it all the time."

The training is scenario based and intended to prepare each man and dog team for contingency operations. There is no specific training to match each handler's personality with the dog's.

"Anytime we conduct training, it's a handler with a dog," said Sergeant Williams. "We train just to make the trainer link with the dog and the dog link with the handler."

Senior Airman Bush, a 99th Security Forces Military Working Dog handler, agreed with Sergeant Williams.

"When you pick up that leash, you pick up that dog," said Airman Bush. "The first stages are rapport [building]... It's allowing the dog to trust you and you to trust the dog."

Putting in long hours, working on the weekends and holidays to train and care for their canine partners help build that cohesive bond, Airman Bush said.

Eventually, the handlers learn to read their dog's body language said Airman Bush. The slightest movement of an ear or tail is a message from the dog.

"Kisma wasn't a breeding dog," said Staff Sergeant Williams. "In a way, she was like my mother. If anybody came close to me, she would try to chew them up just for protection reasons. You couldn't get within two feet without her looking for me."

As Sergeant Williams discovered, this bond would later play a crucial role in many check points, bomb searches, narcotics detection, patrolling and dealing with big challenges.

"Fortunately, while deployed we never had any close calls," Sergeant Williams said. "Kisma was always spot on. We found a couple of bad guys."

Sergeant Williams said he felt 100 percent safe with Kisma as his partner. The dog's ability to sniff narcotics and explosives helps their handlers avert some dangerous situations.

Just as Airmen are dedicated to serving in the Global War on Terrorism, so are their canine counterparts; they risk their lives every day to provide protection and security in ways that human beings are not capable of. However, the rewards and the added piece of mind are well worth it.

"For me, the most rewarding part is building that bond with the dog, watching the dog work, playing with him," said Sergeant Williams. "That's what it's about for me, that dog, and what the dog needs to get by and get home safe." 

Kisma served in the Air Force primarily as an explosive patrol dog her entire life of 10.5 years. She deployed at least five times, two of them with Sergeant Williams. Kisma was put down Oct. 30 due to chronic medical problems. 

Sergeant Williams now has a new partner, a 4-year-old German Sheppard Chello.