28th Security Forces; Ellsworth AFB becomes first CONUS base to have an indoor MWD training facility
01/12/2016 – ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – Ellsworth became the first Air Force base in the continental United States to have an indoor training facility for its four-legged defenders when it became operational Oct. 24, 2015.
The new facility, located in Dock 32, provides an array of features and amenities for 28th Security Forces Squadron MWD handlers to train their partners and helps to greatly reduce the loss of training time due to austere weather conditions.
After seven months of planning and gaining major command level approval, a $100,000 contract was awarded to a local business to complete the renovations that included removing aircraft parts and installing turf, barriers and obstacles to transform the aircraft hangar into a training facility for military working dogs.
The new indoor military working dog training facility is ready for use at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 30, 2015. The building, a renovated aircraft hangar, allows obstacle course and patrol and detection training to be conducted in a safe environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James L. Miller/Released)
Tech. Sgt. Abraham Wheeler, 28th SFS kennel master, said the new facility provides MWDs and their handlers the ability to train year-round, regardless of weather conditions.
“Being at Ellsworth, there is a good chance we can be covered in snow for five months out of the year,” Wheeler said. “The indoor facility allows us to train every day of the year: rain, snow or shine.”
He added that the new facility allows teams to train on a variety of topics ranging from basic obedience training to realistic patrol scenarios.
“The facility minimizes training time lost due to inclement weather,” said Wheeler, who has been a handler for eight years. “It also gives an isolated area for the dogs to work on issues they may have with minimum distractions.”
While the new facility may be slightly smaller than the outdoor area, it still includes the obstacle course, patrol work field and detection training environments.
“My favorite part is how versatile it is,” Wheeler said. “We can do so many things and not worry about hurting one of the dogs due to cold weather.”
Wheeler hopes other bases will follow suit, especially northern bases, where freezing temperatures and fierce winds hinder training.
Enclosed and heated, the facility also helps the dogs stay healthy and train in a safe environment, according to Wheeler.
“We are extremely grateful to be the first base to have an indoor military working dog training facility,” Wheeler said. “[The ability to train inside] benefits the dogs, handlers, and most importantly, the Air Force.”
Story by Airman 1st Class James Miller
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Michael Gwin, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, pets Sjors, 28th SFS military working dog, during a training session at the new indoor military working dog training facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 30, 2015. The new building allows year-round training, regardless of weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James L. Miller/Released)
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