Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Petty Officer 2nd Class Roberto Aguilar & Nick

Who is in the photo at right?

Petty Officer 2nd Class Roberto Aguilar and my Military Working Dog (MWD) Nick, who is a 2 year old German Shepherd. We work together as a security team on board Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) which is a forward-deployed Navy base in Yokosuka Japan. CFAY is home to 11 forward-deployed ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and more than 27,000 service members, civilians and contractors.

What is the dog's rank? How long did it take to achieve his present rank?

Nick is a Petty Officer 1st Class which is one rank higher than me. He has been at this rank for approximately five months. MWD’s are always one rank higher than their handlers to ensure that if a handler ever mistreats his MWD, it is considered assault on a superior which is a major offense. Nick has been working toward his current rank since he first began his training at Lackland Air force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When he retires, he will retire at the highest rank he has ever held.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

All of us at the MWD kennel have our own favorite morning drinks, but for me, it’s a good ol’ fashion cup of joe. Nothing special, just something to start the day before I feed, groom and perform Nick’s daily health inspection. It’s a daily ritual that makes sure we’re both at our best.

Any treats to go with the coffee?

No treats for either of us in the morning. As a MWD security team, we both have to maintain the highest level of health, fitness and readiness to ensure that we keep our community safe. We both follow a strict diet that, with the exception of birthdays and special events, doesn’t allow for many treats.

How did Nick come to be united with you?

Nick was assigned to me by the Kennel Master when I first came to CFAY. Because I had experience working with younger MWD’s at my last command, he felt it would be a good match for both of us.

How did Nick get his name?

Nick got his name when he was purchased from a breeder by the Department of Defense, before he started his training in Texas.

Has Nick earned any special medals or commendations?

No medals or commendations yet, just the grateful appreciation of the community he serves.

I understand MWD are trained in areas like narcotic and explosive detection, building searches, open area scouting, and special search missions. Does your dog have a specialty or specialties?

Nick is a dual purpose MWD that specializes in patrol and detection. I can’t go into specifics about his specialties, but he is a respected member of the security team for the work he does. There is an old saying, “when the city is in trouble they call the police, when the police are in trouble they call the K-9.”

Do you participate in competitions with other MWD? If so, how did you do at a recent one?

We don’t participate in competitions with our MWDs. MWDs and handlers are mission focused 100% of the time. That includes training for real life scenarios and focusing on maintaining the highest levels of readiness and effectiveness at all times.

Which branch of the military has the best MWDs?

United States Navy.

Somehow I knew you were going to say the Navy. Which branch has the second best MWDs?

I believe that every branch takes pride in their work and when it comes to MWDs, as long as you put in your time and effort, you’ll make Americans proud and the community will appreciate you.

Have you & the dog been posted in a war zone? If so, can you briefly tell us something about the high point and low point of that experience?

Nick and I haven’t been posted down range, but we know that day will come. Until then, we will continue to protect the community and train for whatever mission awaits us.

What's your MWD's proudest moment?

I hope it was the day he met his handler, but Nick is a very proud dog so it’s hard to tell when he is most proud. Sometimes I think he might have some Malinois in his blood. Malinois and Shepherds are from the same family and Malinois are known for being very proud dogs.

Among the other MWDs at CFAY, who does your dog best get along with?

Nick is still learning his trade and getting used to his territory in Yokosuka, so we have not introduced him face to face with any of the MWDs here. MWDs are very proud animals and we must ensure that interactions take place at a time that will ensure the safety of the dogs and the handlers. Nick will be introduced to the other dogs as a part of his future training.

Special thanks to Ben S. Avey, Media/Community Relations Specialist, Public Affairs Office, Commander Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, for his help with this interview.

--Marshal Zeringue