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Taking a bite out of crime; new dog joins security forces

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- At 11 years old, Arko was one of the older dogs attached to the 45th Security Forces Squadron, and the strain of being a military working dog had taken its toll.

"It gets to the point where they can't work anymore due to age," said Staff Sgt. Russell Waldon, a dog handler for the 45th SFS. In most cases, the dog is offered for adoption by a local family, but due to debilitating health issues, the decision was made to euthanize Arko. "He was so out of it he couldn't walk," remembered Sergeant Waldon.
Sergeant Waldon is now the handler for Arko's successor, Ciro.

Ciro came to Patrick AFB in August and is the youngest dog in the squadron. Prior to his arrival he had gone through the training to become a military working dog at Lackland AFB, Texas. "I compare it to us when we go through basic training and tech school," said Sergeant Waldon.

Tech. Sgt. Gregory Darby, NCOIC of the Military Working Dog section, said that Department of Defense dogs are normally purchased overseas at one to three years of age, however some are found domestically, brought back to Lackland as puppies and then placed in homes until they are about one year old. "In that time frame, we find out what the dog's strengths are," said Sergeant Waldon. The dogs are then placed in official training for anywhere from three to six weeks, depending on the dog. Each dog is trained to detect either narcotics or explosives, in addition to patrol and pursuit work.
The 45th SFS has seven dog teams, two of which are currently in the field. "They deploy just like anybody else," said Sergeant Waldon.

Sergeant Waldon became a dog handler in June. "My first supervisor was a dog handler and if you have a good first supervisor you want to be like them," he said, "which led to me wanting to be a handler, just for something different."