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Every Air Force base around the world has an elite Military
Working Dog Program. After meeting the necessary requirements, it takes approximately
one year to apply and hopefully become accepted into the program. Trainers work with the dogs for hundreds of hours each
month and accomplish amazing feats.
James Swann, Staff Seargent in the
United States Air Force and a student at Kaplan University, is one of these
elite dog trainers. He is pursuing his bachelor’s in criminal justice with an emphasis in homeland security at
“I have always had a passion for dogs
and what they are capable of,” James said. “When I
was working as a regular security forces officer I would see the K9 teams and
just want to do what they were doing. They looked so professional with their
That said, James notes that his main
motivation in K9 training is tapping into his own personal skills and seeing
what he can do with these amazing animals. “It is absolutely unbelievable what
these beautiful creatures are capable of accomplishing!”
for these dogs and their partners in the military include searching for
explosives, uncovering drugs, and general
patrolling. Dogs can perform any of these activities or a combination of the
“There are so many things you can do
with these dogs,” James said. “You can be a handler, trainer, trainer supervisor,
or kennel master, and then it goes even higher into the command level where you
oversee programs.” James plans on growing in the program and hopefully staying
until he retires from the military. He has trained three dogs to date: Military
Working Dogs (MWD) Igor, Ordog, and now Aras. All three are German shepherds.
“Every day is different. At first, we
take baby steps and gradually move into more complex tests to see how the dogs
do, and when they show signs of slowing then you tailor it down a bit,” he
noted. “I train with them in order to keep them sharp. Fatigue
hinders performance so the better stamina they have the more you can
potentially do. Some dogs are definitely more aggressive than others.”
“Every day is different. At first, we take baby steps and gradually move into more complex tests to see how the dogs do, and when they show signs of slowing then you tailor it down a bit,” he noted. “I train with them in order to keep them sharp. Fatigue hinders performance so the better stamina they have the more you can potentially do. Some dogs are definitely more aggressive than others.”
In these photos, Igor and Aras look pretty fierce. “That’s their job!” James
said. “These dogs love me and would protect me with their lives if they could,
We asked James what a typical day
entails. “I wake up and go clean up the kennels. Then I pull my dog out
and show him some loving since he is so hyper and happy to see me. Next we begin
with basic obedience commands to ensure that he is ready to listen. The rest of
the day consists of random detection sweeps and walking him in view of the
public to show a psychological deterrence.”
James looks forward to using his Kaplan
University criminal justice degree
to help him in his daily responsibilities, and to open doors when he retires. “I
would love to keep training dogs, become a K9 police officer, or join the
secret service… there are so many dog-specific careers. My dream job is the one I am currently doing, I could do
this job for 50 years if they would let me!”
of Kaplan University’s public service programs or anyone interested in learning
more about Staff Sergeant James Swann and how he is making a difference in the world with his
military dogs can join the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences on August 21, 2013 at 7 pm
ET for a free webinar. Register for the
webinar by visiting: https://kapx.kaplan.com/ku-academic/service-dogs/.
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