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NEWS | April 4, 2012

Every dog will have his day

By Staff Sgt. Katie Gieratz Joint-Base Charleston Public Affairs

Dog lovers say their dogs are more than just pets; they're family. Dogs are there when we need them to lift our spirits when we are down and can protect us when necessary. We trust and believe in them and share a deep emotional bond. The 628th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs at the Joint Base Charleston - Air Base kennels instinctively harbor the same loyalty and devotion normally found in our family pets.

No other job fit Staff Sgt. Timothy Garrett, 628th SFS as perfectly as being a military working dog handler. Garrett did not know what he wanted to do in the military until he had already completed basic training at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas.

"I saw the new kennels for the military working dogs when they were being built at Lackland," said Garrett. "I have always loved dogs and ever since then I knew I wanted to be a handler."

Military working dogs are either born into the puppy program at JB San Antonio - Lackland or purchased from Europe after being evaluated by a veterinarian and experienced dog handler. The Air Force prefers to use German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds or Belgian Malanois because of their intelligence, health and temperaments.
At JB Charleston it is more than a job for military working dog handler Garret and his dog Akim.

Akim, a Belgian Malanois, spent 60 working days training at JB San Antonio - Lackland to become a patrol explosive detection dog. Once Akim completed his training in Texas he was sent to JB Charleston.

Garrett is passionate about his job and his canine partner. "I find my job very rewarding. I get paid to come to work and hang out with Akim all day."

Like Akim, Garrett also completed training at JB San Antonio - Lackland to be a military working dog handler. Garrett is currently preparing for his first deployment as a dog handler and Akim will go with him.

"Each handler deploys with their dog," said Garret. "This is important because the bond has already been established. Deploying with the dog you're with every day is vital to mission success."

Although this will be Garrett's first deployment as a handler, Akim already has one deployment to Afghanistan under his collar.

"These dogs respond like a person responds to their superior," said Garrett. "If they respect you, they will work harder for you."

Handlers spend their days cleaning kennels, feeding, grooming and exercising dogs to establish a bond with the animals. Handlers who work a flight schedule perform the same duties as well as attending guard mount (arming up), performing random vehicle inspections, building sweeps and walking patrols.

After his deployment, Akim will remain at JB Charleston through the duration of his military career even if Garrett is required to move due to Air Force needs. Akim will retire in two years and although Garrett may not be able to work with Akim everyday, he does have other plans.

"I'm planning on adopting Akim when he retires," said Garrett.