Explosive detection dogs help keep senior leaders safe

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – When the military is tasked with protecting national leaders and foreign dignitaries, it’s not just boots on the ground … it’s dog paws too.  

The Air Force Security Forces Center performs the central role in providing military working dog support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of State, U.S. Secret Service and White House Military Office.  

Through the AFSFC's Department of Defense Military Working Dog Scheduling Cell, dog teams specializing in explosive detection from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps get tasked to protect the nation’s and world’s highest-ranking officials. 

In 2023, the AFSFC sourced more than 391 missions and 1,674 MWD teams to directly support the president and vice president at locations around the globe. Teams also support special security events to include United Nations, Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, NATO and African Leadership Summits, to name a few. The team also schedules support for former presidents, first ladies, second gentlemen, secretaries of state, and foreign heads of state when requested.  

On average, Air Force teams fill 43% of all explosive detection dog requirements each year.  

“The role of the scheduling cell is crucial,” said Master Sgt. Steven Daniel, kennel master at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. “They understand not only the requesting agency needs, but also how to logistically schedule the teams based on geography to ensure the mission can be met on time in a cost-effective way.”  

Traveling with a MWD is difficult and the scheduling cell’s role is essential for mission success, said Senior Airman Clark Logan, a canine handler at JB Andrews.   

“They ensure transportation meets all necessary requirements for the welfare of the dog and facilitates smooth travel to and from mission destinations,” he said. “This level of support streamlines the logistical aspect of my missions and allows me to focus on my duties with confidence.” 

Canine support requests can be for one individual or for a large group and can sometimes include more than just U.S. citizens, said Paul Chute, AFSFC Military Working Dog Operations section chief. For example, it could include foreign heads of state when in a large gathering such as the United Nations General Assembly.  

“If more than one office or senior person is present in the same location, they’ll each get their own support detail,” he said.  

Daniel manages the largest kennel in the Department of the Air Force, and he and his team support many scheduling cell requests for detection canine teams.  

“My experience with the scheduling cell has always been extremely professional and they should be applauded, especially considering the effort it takes for the cell to work with all branches of the military and across geographical locations and time differences,” Daniel said.  

“They’ve always been timely and effective when tasking missions,” he said,” and they’ve also assisted when any issues arise … their expertise has proven to be crucial to ensuring all missions are completed.”  

With so many requests for support from various agencies and many MWD teams providing that support, a commitment to continuous improvement is what sets the scheduling cell operation apart, Clark said. 

“By incorporating suggestions and lessons learned, they ensure that future missions benefit from enhanced planning and support.,” he said. “This proactive approach not only aids members of the DOD and senior government agencies, but also fosters open communication between them and the agency they support.”