An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | May 1, 2013

Jaga, an Airman's best friend

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

It's been said that a man's best friend is his dog, and for one Joint Base Charleston Airman, that sentiment couldn't be truer.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Shaughnessy, 628th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler at JB Charleston - Air Base, S.C., looks forward to going to work every day because he knows he gets to spend each day with his best friend.

Shaughnessy's best friend isn't your typical colleague. His wingman has four legs and a fur coat, but according to Shaughnessy, he wouldn't want to work with anyone else on a daily basis or watch his back in a dangerous situation.

Military Working Dog Jaga, is a 3-year old German Shepherd assigned to the 628th SFS and when she's not sleeping, playing or eating a high protein diet, she's a force multiplier Airman, with skilled abilities to detect explosives and prevent attacks from enemy insurgents.

Shaughnessy and Jaga are scheduled to deploy as a team to Southwest Asia in May. Although Shaughnessy has dedicated the last six years of his life to the Air Force as a security forces Airman, the deployment will be the first for both him and Jaga.
Before arriving at JB Charleston in March 2012, Shaughnessy's first assignment was Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The 341st Missile Wing nuclear deterrence mission required a fixed security forces presence that required Shaughnessy to stay at home station.

"I'm not worried about deploying," said Shaughnessy, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. "I'll be with my best friend, and we'll experience it all together."

Deploying isn't the only thing these two will experience together. Every day, Shaughnessy and Jaga are training, preparing and working side-by-side as part of the 628th SFS, as well as preparing for their deployment.

And, if you think Jaga is worried about for her first deployment, then you're barking up the wrong tree .

The team trains on a daily basis. Their morning routine begins when Shaughnessy lets Jaga out of her kennel and she completes various obedience tests on the obstacle course adjacent to the K-9 building at JB Charleston - Air Base.

"The obstacle course helps Jaga prepare for a deployed environment," said Shaughnessy. "She listens to my commands, easily climbs barriers and palisades, and in the future, will be able to transfer that knowledge to the terrain of a mountainside or forward operating base."

Jaga's overall physical health is vital to the mission's success while deployed and at JB Charleston. To ensure her physical standards are met, the duo takes five-mile ruck marches, run together three-times a week and finds other ways to stay active together, like playing a game of fetch.

"Jaga is still a puppy," said Shaughnessy. "She is full of energy, fun to work with and constantly on the move. Being a new handler, I feel very lucky to also be taking on the challenge of working with a new dog."

Before Jaga placed her paws in the Lowcountry, she began her Air Force career at the same base all enlisted Airmen start theirs, "The gateway to the Air Force," JB San Antonio - Lackland, Texas. However, instead of technical instructors and drill pads, Jaga was assigned to a different kind of basic training with the 341st Training Squadron and attended the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School.

The 341st TRS' mission is to provide trained military working dogs and handlers for the DOD, other government agencies and allies through training, logistical, veterinary support and research and development for security efforts worldwide.

She arrived at JB Charleston in December 2012, and is earning her stripes just like any other Airman. In addition to physical training, she must also qualify with on-the-job training; detecting TNT, C-4 and other materials frequently used in homemade explosives or IEDs. These certification detections are typically done through simulated marches through wooded trails within JB Charleston.

"When I see her change in behavior, I know something is in the area," said Shaughnessy, in regards to Jaga's warnings of nearby explosive materials. "She is trained to be selfless, and that's a testament that inspires me on a daily basis."
Jaga is more than my work partner, she is like my child," continued Shaughnessy, a father of two. "At times, she needs to be verbally corrected, but, other times its okay to play, have fun and just be a dog. Of course, accomplishing the mission comes first."

Jaga isn't just a heartbeat at Shaughnessy's feet; she is his wingman and, according to Shaughnessy, would be willing to lay her life down to save his. That self-sacrificing, unconditional love is what brings Shaughnessy comfort, solace and the inspiration to not only become a better Airman, but a better human.