75th SFS MWD and handler bond on first deployment

  • Published
  • By Cynthia Griggs
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

National K9 Veterans Day, celebrated on March 13 every year, is a day designated to honor the service and sacrifices of our military working dogs.

One four-legged hero from here, MWD Bak, with just a few months under his collar as a military working dog, deployed with his handler, Staff Sgt. Edward Lopez, to provide security at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. 

Bak is a patrol explosive detection dog and was assigned to the 75th Security Forces Squadron here in December 2021. The duo recently returned from the six-month deployment and, like others before them, returned with a stronger bond than they had before they departed. 

Lopez explained the “short notice” deployment tasking in May 2022 required them to report for pre-deployment training at the Air Force Security Forces Center’s Ground Combat Readiness Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The center focuses on specific training and equipping Air Force Defenders to meet the needs of combatant commanders.

The MWD teams train to specific tactical methods and scenarios, and the dogs also are imprinted with different explosive odors.

Lopez said by the end of their training, Bak earned the esteemed "Top Dog" award for his efforts.

“At Hill, we train for world-wide deployments in various expeditionary environments,” said Lopez. “Although Bak was young, he was hungry and capable to take on a new challenge.”

Once in the UAE, Lopez said he knew Bak was ready, but figured he would have to adapt to a steep learning curve with the heat and other stimuli. 

“He took a few weeks to adjust to the 100-degree plus weather, but I slowly acclimated him to the environment and he was able to operate smoothly,” he said. “This ended up being just like a vacation for him, because he truly loves working and performing.”

Lopez said Bak has so much more confidence after being on deployment and is no longer an “anxious” rookie.

“If I put him in any environment now, he shows more willingness to perform a task,” said Lopez. 

Military working dogs are an essential part of the Air Force. The K-9s are trained to maintain security of military bases and personnel. The bond they form with their handlers through training ensures that security and readies them for real-world situations.

After spending six months deployed together, Lopez said the two are essentially family and he said being with Bak made it easy to get through the long days away from his own family.

“He weighs 80 pounds and is just a ball of energy who loves playing rough, but also loves cuddling whenever he’s tired,” said Lopez. “I knew our bond was special when we would exchange non-verbals. Almost like your significant other or family member, you start to pick up patterns on their habits, which helps the overall relationship.”

Lopez has been in the Air Force for nearly 10 years and has worked as a MWD handler and trainer for five years.