K-9 teams sniff out OPFOR during Vigilant Ace 16
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- As night falls, the task of defending the base from ground attacks become more difficult. All manner of sins can be hid in the dark, but you can't hide so easily from a Military Working Dog, especially if you don't know he's there.
Teams of Military Working Dogs and their handlers man listening and observing posts positioned at random points along the base perimeter.
"We're down and out of the way," said Staff Sgt. Michael Caruso, 51st Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog handler. "We'll be able to see someone and before they know what's going on, I can notify base security operations to dispatch responders to handle the potential threat."
Caruso and his MWD Zody are one of more than a dozen different MWD teams assigned to these scattered posts during the nights of Vigilant Ace 16. Tasked with quite literally looking and listening for possible opposing forces, the success of this mission relies heavily upon the acute senses of the dogs.
Though occasionally interacting with roaming SFS patrols, the handlers and their partners spend the vast majority of these 12-hour shifts with only each other for company.
"It's more of a solitary thing, it's me and him, no one else," said Caruso.
While some would consider this a difficult, lonely assignment, Osan's MWD handlers are putting this time to good use.
"With the short turn over at Osan, you don't really get to spend a long time with the dogs and that can affect the relationship," said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Williams, 51st SFS MWD handler. "These dedicated long hours help out a lot."
"You're only here a year but if you work at it, you can build that good rapport between yourself and your dog," said Williams as he glances down at Nnine, his MWD. "It's a lot of fun because you get that one-on-one time with your partner."