Military News

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Loud and Clear



The July 13, 2013 episode of American Heroes Radio features a conversation with former US Army soldier Luke Marusiak the author of Loud and Clear.

Program Date: July 13, 2013
Program Time: 1500 hours, PACIFIC
Topic: Loud and Clear

About the Guest
Luke Marusiak “was raised in Western Pennsylvania. He served in the US Army culminating with the 1st Infantry Division in Desert Storm. He has resided in the Silicon Valley since the early 1990s working in semiconductors, hard drive media, and vacuum chamber systems in positions from process engineer to Chief Operating Officer and CEO. He draws on his family, friendships and experiences for his writing. He currently resides in California with his wife and son.”  Luke Marusiak is the author of Loud and Clear, and Marx & Ford.

According to the book description of Loud and Clear, “Hank Rudzinski always wanted to be a hero. He finds Amy, a partner in his quest, and joins the Army. From Pennsylvania to West Germany; from a Georgia Army Post to a Mississippi Air Force Base; from an Infantry Division in Missouri to the deserts of Iraq in 1991- they realize that heroes are made of something different than rank or medals. They also discover that great causes bring out the best but also the very worst of people. This novel pulls aside the curtain to reveal the grandeur and grittiness of such pursuits. It is also a novel of love and hate; highlighting the lifelong permanence of soul searing choices.”

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life.  Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years.  He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant.  He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University.  He has experience teaching upper division courses in law enforcement, public policy, law enforcement technology and leadership.  Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One.  He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in law enforcement.

Listen from the Archive:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA
909.599.7530

Protecting millions at a moment's notice

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/9/2013 - CHITOSE AIR BASE, Japan -- Consider yourself responsible for the lives of millions of people every single day. Your goal is to keep them alive and be there for each one of them at a moment's notice, day and night.

Believe it or not, the position has already been filled.

It's the mission of Pacific Air Forces - the major command responsible for the Asia-Pacific region during peacetime, through crisis and in war. The immense responsibility of upholding these demands is spread across nine Air Force bases, and this week, members of the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, played their part during a weeklong Aviation Training Relocation to Northern Japan.

Nearly 100 Airmen cut the Independence Day holiday weekend short, piled on to a C-130 Hercules and met up with 12 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots here where they teamed up with members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to employ bilateral training.

Maj. Jason Mascetta, 13th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations who is the detachment commander while here, said the training began out of the gates as U.S. pilots battled their way into Chitose during simulated combat with JASDF F-15Js. The training pitted the forces to fight with and against each other in a handful of unique scenarios, including single-jet and team battles.

Along with strengthening the relationship between the host nation and U.S. Air Forces tactically, the mission highlighted the flexibility and responsiveness of Misawa Airmen.

Before jets can flex their aerial muscles, a lot has to be done on the ground and behind the scenes to make a short-notice operation flow smoothly. Airmen are constantly training for these instances, making execution under pressure a second nature reaction.

"Chitose was very short-notice, and the effort of all the players to make this happen smoothly was extraordinary," said Senior Airman Kristina Fordham, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron planner. "There are a lot of moving parts, and without preparation, we can't execute the mission."

"We went from zero to kickoff in less than 30 days," said Master Sgt. Daniel Hook, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief and mission project supervisor.

Organizing Airmen from handfuls of different squadrons to relocate their lives to a distant island for a week sounds like a logistical nightmare. However, these motivated Airmen make it look easy - even if it takes molding career fields.

Senior Airman Jon Eager, 35th Security Forces dog handler, and Airman 1st Class Tyler McHugh, who works in the 35 SFS Misawa armory, changed up their regular duties to provide flight line security for the visiting F-16s.

"I think it's great we can show up with thousands and thousands pounds of gear, almost 100 people, and be ready go without much warning," said McHugh. "Being able to work with the JASDF and make headroom with that relationship says a lot about the capability of our Air Force."

As part of PACAF, the 35 FW's mission is suppression of air enemy defense, which is commonly referred to as the mission of the Wild Weasels. It's a force that's been ready at the drop of a hat since arriving at Misawa nearly 20 years ago. In order to keep their F-16s the fittest fighters on the planet, it takes contributions from every part of the team.

"As a flight line maintainer, we're for the most part consistently on temporary duties or deploying, so the mindset is always there," said Staff Sgt. Pablo Jimenez, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "There's not a lot of switchover, so we're always prepared."

Jimenez has been a part of more than 10 missions that have temporarily taken him away from his home station. He said while operations like this - his second stint to Chitose AB -- provide a chance for pilots to experience new training, it's business as usual for maintainers. The numbers speak for themselves.

The 35th Operations Group at Misawa has successfully flown more than 30,000 sortie missions in the past five years. Effective missions like the trip here go to show why PACAF's area of responsibility extends more than 100 million square miles and spans across nearly 50 countries.

"Every day, what we do is serious - it's real life," said Jimenez, a 10-year veteran. "Nothing changes regardless of where we are across the world."

PACAF Airmen recognized for job well done

7/9/2013 - Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii -- Major Joshua W. Ehmen from the 3rd Operations Group, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK was the PACAF 2012 Col Joe Jackson Award for Excellence in Mobility Tactics winner. This award represents our very best in the significant achievement in mobility tactics, application of innovative weapons or tactics employment, and the instruction or evaluation of tactics which significantly contributed to the increased readiness of the MAF.

SSgt Matthew D. Counts from the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Yokota AB, Japan was the 2012 PACAF Colonel Gail Halvorsen Award winner (Outstanding Air Transportation Individual of the Year). SSgt Counts was recognized for demonstrating outstanding professionalism and performance in executing our PACAF mission.

Son Tay Raid aircraft displayed at Cannon

by Senior Airman Jette Carr
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs


7/2/2013 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 27th Special Operations Wing held a ceremony to celebrate the official new home of Combat Talon I, Cherry One, near the front entrance of Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 28, 2013.

If the retired aircraft could speak, it would undoubtedly have many hair-raising and death-defying exploits to share. Perhaps, though, the most intimidating story it could tell is that of the Son Tay Raid, the moment this particular Talon cemented its mark in time during a Prisoner of War rescue mission in the Vietnam War.

The notorious MC-130E was given a voice during the Cannon ceremony by way of several original crew members who flew the craft during the famous raid. Together, the veterans reminisced, chiming in with details and reminding each other of the moment they leapt into the history books.

Retired Lt. Col. Irl "Leon" Franklin, the Talon's pilot, recalled the day he was recruited to play a part in the Son Tay Raid.

"We got word from Headquarters [U.S. Air Force] to provide a crew for an unknown, classified mission," said Franklin. "They expressed my name specifically, and that of another fellow, a navigator, by the name of Tom Stiles. The rest of the crew was to be chosen from the 7th Special Operations Squadron."

It was a joint-service operation of the utmost secrecy -- formulated like a puzzle. Only those with a need-to-know were told how the pieces fit together, leaving most participants in the dark. Each group, from the flight crews to the army rangers, practiced specific combat maneuvers, all the while speculating what their mission would be.

According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, an assortment of aircraft trained for the operation, including six helicopters, five small attack planes and two large support aircraft. All unknowingly prepared for a raid on a POW camp in North Vietnam, where intelligence analysts believed 55 prisoners were being held.

Eventually, the mission was briefed to all and they flew what was to become the largest covert operation of the Vietnam War on the night of Nov. 20, 1970.

Flying point under the call sign Cherry One was the faithful Talon 0523, prepared to lead a team of helicopters in close formation. However, as it would happen, all was not smooth sailing for the military bird as the mission started off with what the craft's copilot, retired Maj. William Guenon, called a "Murphy" moment.

"In any good, secret and dangerous mission deep behind enemy lines, there's usually a few surprise 'Murphy' moments to be dealt with along the way, and this will always be the case no matter how much development and training is done," Guenon said. "Our mission was no exception. After having flown Cherry One for more than four months with absolutely no serious issues, on the night of the raid, her number three engine would not start. We lost 21 minutes before we finally, using the double-starter-button-trick, got number three to start."

Once airborne, the crew modified their route to make up for lost time and caught up to the already in-flight formation. Upon reaching their destination, the Talon crew began to drop flares on the sleeping prison camp below, lighting up the area for other aircraft that destroyed Son Tay's defenses and landed inside the fortifications to begin the raid.

Cherry One then flew up the road away from camp and dropped fire crackers to simulate a ground fire-fight in an effort to deter North Vietnamese reinforcements. Finally, Cherry One was to drop a couple napalm bombs, which would burn bright and serve as a reference point for five A-1E Skyraiders and Cherry Two, another Combat Talon I. The first bomb went out on point, but it was the second that gave the crew of aircraft 0523 a bit of a problem.

"Another anxious moment that will always remain with the crew of Cherry One was when our second napalm bomb was armed, got hung up during airdrop and would not leave the aircraft," said Guenon. "You can believe we all had our individual visions of what nasty things could happen, and you can be sure none of these thoughts were very pretty. That derelict napalm was finally jettisoned by using negative G's and an old-fashion, and properly timed, heave-ho by our highly motivated ramp crew."

Though they were prepared for nearly every kind of hiccup in the mission, there was one moment that no one saw coming. During the raid a message came over the radio that simply stated, "No packages."

"When they said negative packages, I never knew what that meant," said Tom Eckhart, head navigator on Cherry One. "I said, 'What's that'; and they said, 'No prisoners.' That was quite a letdown because that was our purpose, but later on I found out it was worthwhile because I got to speak with several people who were prisoners in Vietnam and each one told me that I saved their lives. That made it all worthwhile."

"They were told over and over again, 'Nobody will come and get you; they don't care about you; they have forgotten about you, and you're here forever'," said Eckhart. "After the Son Tay Raid, they [the POWs] found out that we did come for them."

Because of the raid on Son Tay, North Vietnam gathered all POWs together in one location, fearful of a repeat attack. It gave men who had been in isolation for many years the ability to communicate with one another - they were no longer alone.

In Secret and Dangerous, a book by Guenon containing a first-hand account of the rescue operation, was a letter from a Vietnam POW, retired Brig. Gen. Jon Reynolds, who expressed the importance of the Son Tay Raid.

"While the rescue was not to be, the success of the mission and its importance for American prisoners in North Vietnam should never be understated," said Reynolds. "Its impact on us was positive and immediate...morale soared. The Vietnamese were visibly shaken. Even though not a man was rescued, the raid was still the best thing that ever happened to us."

After the mission was completed, the crew parted ways with their Talon, though they found they had become quite attached. At their craft's retirement, the Vietnam veterans were glad to see Cherry One, not in the bone-yard or buried in a museum, but prominently displayed at a special operations base.

"Our bird, Cherry One, aka 64-0523, is a larger than life C-130E(I) - one of the first, and has been operating in the shadows around the many hot spots of the world, she's always brought her aircrews safely home," said Guenon. "When not stemming the tide of communism, she, in the dark of night, quietly pursued those fanatics who still wanted to harm the U.S. Indeed, for a large-sized aircraft, this is certainly no small feat."

"By displaying a proven special operations legend at the Cannon Air Force Base front gate, aircrews can see and realize the true spirit and proud tradition of the Son Tay Raid from so long ago," Guenon continued. "Hopefully her example will influence others to succeed in spite of great odds."

Fort Belvoir Hospital Strives for Health Care Excellence


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVIOR, Va., July 9, 2013 – The old adage that “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply to military hospitals, the commander of the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital recognizes.


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Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Northern Virginia, shown here, is a state-of-the-art military medical facility that opened in August 2011. The hospital, along with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and other military health care facilities in the Washington D.C. area, is part of National Capital Region Medical -- a joint-service organization providing health care for military beneficiaries throughout the region. DOD photo by Marc Barnes
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
That’s particularly true in places like the Washington, D.C., area where service members, retirees and family members can choose from an array of top-notch civilian facilities to get their medical care, Army Col. Chuck Callahan told American Forces Press Service.

But with a gleaming 1.3-million-square-foot facility and a strategy centered on taking care of patients and their families, Callahan has set out to attract more of the 164,000 military health care beneficiaries in the region that currently use TRICARE to seek their care at Fort Belvoir.

“Because Fort Belvoir Community Hospital is not the only game in town, we must compete with civilian facilities who also want to care for our patients,” Callahan said. “My opinion is that the way to do that is to build a system that people want to come to.”

The new hospital stands in stark contrast to the 1950s-era DeWitt Army Community Hospital it replaced. Built in compliance with the congressionally mandated 2005 Base Realignment and Closure reorganization plan, the new hospital is part of a sweeping plan to improve the efficiency of military health care in the Washington, D.C., area.

While the renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., serves as the military’s premier referral medical center, Fort Belvoir provides primary and specialty care to a largely regional clientele.

Shortly after assuming command last year, Callahan unveiled an organizational strategy aimed at making the hospital the facility of choice to an estimated half-million eligible beneficiaries in the national capital area.

In the most basic terms, it boils down to economics, he explained. The Defense Department spent $19 billion on health care in 2001 and will spend $49 billion this year. That figure is expected to skyrocket to $92 billion by 2030 -- consuming almost 10 percent of the entire DOD budget.

As Callahan sees it, paying for patients to get care at civilian facilities when military ones can accommodate them doesn’t make financial sense. “We are buying the care twice,” he said, paying for the new $1 billion Fort Belvoir hospital and its staff, but also picking up the tab for 164,000 people enrolled in the regional TRICARE network.

“Something has to change,” Callahan said, particularly with rising health care costs on a collision course with shrinking budgets.

So Callahan has taken matters into his own hands, working to create an environment “where patient- and family-centered care meets evidence-based design in a culture of excellence.” That boils down to a facility where patients and families have hassle-free access to the highest-quality care and services, and where they feel comfortable and welcomed as they receive them, he explained.

Everything about the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital supports this vision. The new facility has greater capabilities than standard community hospitals. It includes 120 single-inpatient rooms, a 10-bed intensive-care unit, 10 state-of-the-art operating rooms, a behavioral health unit, an advanced cancer care center, breast care center, emergency department, pharmacy, diagnostic centers and modular clinic space for outpatient services.

Planners have made getting these services as simple and convenient as possible. Appointments are easy to make and parking is plentiful. Once inside the hospital, patients and their families are treated to a beautiful, calming environment designed to be therapeutic: lots of natural light and outside views, d├ęcor inspired by nature and color-coded wings that help visitors maintain their bearings.

One of the most soothing features is what visitors don’t see. There’s no click-clacking of laundry carts crowding the hallways, and maintenance and other logistics activities are relegated to non-prime operating hours.

The staff took a cue from The Walt Disney Co., instituting its strict standards of “on-stage” and “off-stage” activities, Callahan explained.

“The idea that health care should have at least the same service standards as any other service industry is not the way health care has always looked at itself,” he said. “But this is really evolving, and it is part of the culture of excellence that we are working to establish here.”

It’s all part of a plan to make care at the facility centered on the patient and family, he said. That begins the moment they pick up the phone to make an appointment and continuing when they arrive at the facility and throughout their treatment.

But most importantly, Callahan said it centers on a relationship between patients and the health care providers who make up their “medical home.” Unlike most civilian doctors whose focus is on treating patients when they are sick -- necessitated largely by the way insurance reimburses them for services -- medical home providers concentrate on keeping patients healthy, he explained.

It’s a formula Callahan said the entire Military Health System is embracing, and that makes Fort Belvoir Community Hospital particularly attractive to military health care beneficiaries.

“People like coming here,” he said. “But they also have a choice” about where they get their care.
"As we implement this strategy, we are building a culture of excellence and an [environment] that people will want to come to," he said.

"We know that consistent, predictably accessible, and convenient health care created around the medical home and medical neighborhood will build trust, foster communication and provide opportunities to promote health and well-being for our beneficiaries,” Callahan said. “This is the mission and the vision of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital."

From E.R. to Black Hawk helicopter, Air Force nurse 'returns' to Army

by Master Sgt. Leisa Grant
Air Force Central Command Public Affairs


7/9/2013 - FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN EAST, Afghanistan  -- Blood spurts from a gaping wound. Broken bones pierce through skin. Screaming, shock, chaos - some things never change for emergency medical personnel.

But, for Air Force Maj. Sandra Nestor, a critical care nurse deployed with the 2-149 General Aviation Support Battalion, a typical day is very different from the ER she works in at her homestation, Langley Air Force Base, Va. She can often be found scrambling more than 200 yards to an aircraft, rotary blades whipping up dust in every direction, battling language barriers with coalition forces and working with limited medical supplies.

As a member of a medical evacuation team, Nestor is called upon for missions along side the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews that launch on a moment's notice when U.S. and coalition forces become injured in the field.

"I'm an extra set of hands in the back of the aircraft," Nestor said.

An extra set of hands at times, maybe. But, she brings a whole new capability to the missions.

The Department of Defense did a study of patients who died in theater and found there was a percentage of casualties who had survivable injuries and would have had a higher chance of survival had critical care transport been available.

As a result of the studies, a request for forces was submitted to Central Command in 2009 for all services to support the En Route Critical Care mission, said Army Lt. Col. Kimberlie Biever, director of the En Route Critical Care mission under Task Force Medical Afghanistan.

"The Air Force sent their first critical care evacuation team into theater in 2011 to support this mission, which had solely been supported by Army nurses since 2010," Biever said.

Nestor's years of nursing experience make her a vital asset during these critical care transports in particular, especially when it comes to lifesaving measures involving patients' airways and bleeding during point-of-injury missions.

Nestor, a member of the fourth Air Force TCCT in theater, acknowledges the importance of her role, but remains grounded when working with her Army medical evacuation crews.

"The medic is always in charge in the back of the aircraft," she said. The medic is also an enlisted Soldier.

Everyone works as a team to ensure not only the safety of their patients, but of the crews as well. Working out of a moving "hospital" has its challenges, especially to a nurse who has worked in facilities for most of her career.

"It's a lot different," Nestor said when comparing her home station environment to her deployed environment. "You have an entire team of people. You have resources throughout the hospital. If you need lab support or someone to come down and take X-rays. In the back of the aircraft, it is just you and the medic and the crew chief."

The crews she works with are from Army National Guard units out of Oklahoma and Texas. For some services, working with another service while deployed can create an interesting dynamic. For Nestor, this isn't her first time with the Army. In fact, she has had about equal time with the Army as with the Air Force.

"I was in the Army Reserve, out of high school, as a licensed practical nurse," she said.

Nestor's medical training required her to be on active duty for 1.5 years and it was there where she started to make decisions that would ultimately land her the job of jumping on and off helicopters up to four times a day.

"I did well in school and my instructors encouraged me to get my bachelor in science of nursing degree," she said. "I didn't have any money for college, so they told me about a great Army scholarship program called the [Reserve Officers' Training Corps]."

She joined the Army ROTC program and upon graduation went directly on active duty in the Army Nurse Corps for 7.5 years, where she met her husband, who has since retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kiowa scout pilot.

"I had a great time with the Army," she said, but added that it was difficult for her and her husband to be stationed together. Nestor decided to leave military service to raise a family with her husband because she said she did not want to be a geographically separated family.

After a five year break in service, she developed a yearning to return to military nursing. And, it was her husband who suggested the Air Force.

With a strong Army medical background and some familiarity with aviation, Nestor likens her joint medical world to aviation - she just happens to be a part of both while deployed.

"Like aviation, we have to work as a team to take care of the patients," she said. "So, I work closely with everyone and learn from them, whether they are the doctors or the medics. We learn from each other."

Regardless of service, the medical corps really has a single mission.

"For most of us, we work together in our hospitals back in the U.S. and we work
together when we deploy," Biever said. "We are all health care professionals with the
mission of caring for injured and ill warriors. Because of this commonality, we come together well, figure out each others operational languages and focus on caring for patients and saving lives."

Defense Department to Review POW/MIA Command Operations

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 – The Defense Department has a sacred obligation to recover missing service members, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today at a news conference.
An internal review conducted by the office charged with that mission -- the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command -- has raised concerns within DOD, Little said.

The results of the internal review are now with the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, which has oversight over the recovery mission. Recent news reports have described organizational problems within the command.

“Sometimes media reports raise attention in … a department of 3 million people,” Little said. “It certainly sometimes helps to have press stories shed light on issues that are out there.”

The office of the undersecretary of defense for policy will begin a review of JPAC operations and the issues described in the internal review soon, he said.

“It's the prudent thing to do, if concerns haven't been raised to the appropriate levels, to take a second look and to ensure that we're performing this very important mission to the best of our ability,” Little said.

“We're going to review the concerns raised in the report to see how JPAC is or isn't functioning well,” he said. “And if steps need to be taken to remedy what's happening inside JPAC, then we'll take action.”

Face of Defense: Security Airmen Deploy With K-9 Partners

By Air Force Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, July 9, 2013 – One of the most difficult aspects of deployment for service members is leaving behind friends and family. Security forces airmen in the Military Working Dog section here, however, have a unique opportunity when they deploy.


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Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Hanus and his working dog partner, Beni, conduct a vehicle check at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, July 2, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones
  

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"We get to deploy with our best friend," said Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Hanus, a 379th Expeditionary Security Forces dog handler, deployed with his K-9 companion, Beni, from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Hanus and Beni are one of 13 working dog teams here who support the 379th ESFS’s mission to maintain security and vigilance throughout the wing, and to ensure no threats enter the base by searching each vehicle prior to entry. The dogs also serve as a psychological deterrent and are trained to attack perpetrators on command.

"The job we do is instrumental in keeping the base secure," Hanus said. "A good relationship between a military dog and handler is critical to executing the mission."

Before a deployment, MWD teams are certified and validated by the mission support group commander at their respective home stations.

"We demonstrate our abilities to work together," Hanus said. "Beni showed proficiency in searching for explosive odors, and I showed competency in recognizing his change of behavior and making the final call if he is giving a positive response."

The certification is conducted by the kennel master and the team must demonstrate the canine is obedient and listens to critical commands given by the handler. If those tasks are not demonstrated, they do not certify and training continues.

The MWD teams must also have mutual trust for one another, Hanus said.

"We work our dogs on a 6- to 15-foot leash," he said. "If Beni detects a threat, we could potentially be within feet of an explosive device -- right on top of it. I have to be able to trust him to provide an accurate response and that has a lot to do with our relationship."

In addition to the patrol and search responsibilities, the duo trains every day to ensure Beni remains proficient in his duties, which is particularly important because he is new to the Air Force.

"This is not only Beni's first deployment, but I am also his first handler," Hanus said. "I have a very cool opportunity to help him learn and develop his skills."

That, in itself, strengthens their relationship, Hanus said.

"Everything I teach him now should stick with him for the rest of his career," he said. "I feel like I am setting him up for success."

The bond and mutual trust between Hanus, Beni and other K-9 teams here is what keeps the base secure, Hanus said.

"Every morning I wake up and know I am going to be working with my closest friend out here," Hanus said. "There is this awesome feeling of accomplishment you get working with a dog. These dogs are smart and the more time you spend with them, the more you begin to realize this. The appreciation we are given out here is tremendous, but the dogs are the ones putting in the real work."

This sense of a strong companionship is shared across the K-9 community.

"There is a saying in the K-9 world: feelings and emotions run down leash," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kent Bass, the unit’s kennel master. "If you have a good bond with your MWD they will be happy to work and be loyal to you."