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Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: MWD edition

Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: MWD edition

Military Working Dog handlers Staff Sgts. Jenavieve Trinidad and Amelia Ruiz, 8th Security Forces Squadron, pose for a photo with MWDs Nex and Rex on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 5, 2021. The relationship between a handler and their MWD includes constant training, and/or course correction to ensure the safety and protection of both individuals and the safeguard of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristin S. High)

Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: MWD edition

Staff Sgt. Amelia Ruiz, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, trains with MWD Rex on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 5, 2021. The relationship between a handler and their MWD includes constant training, and/or course correction to ensure the safety and protection of both individuals and the safeguard of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristin S. High)

Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: MWD edition

Military Working Dog handlers Staff Sgts. Jenavieve Trinidad and Amelia Ruiz, 8th Security Forces Squadron, conduct routine training with MWD Rex on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 5, 2021. Part of the training includes teaching the MWDs how to correctly escort and bite any assailant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristin S. High)

Wolf Pack celebrates Women’s History Month: MWD edition

Military Working Dog handlers Staff Sgts. Jenavieve Trinidad and Amelia Ruiz, 8th Security Forces Squadron, conduct routine training with MWD Rex on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 5, 2021. The relationship between a handler and their MWD includes constant training, and/or course correction to ensure the safety and protection of both individuals and the safeguard of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristin S. High)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Each March we celebrate Women’s History Month. This is the first story in a series of women serving here at the Wolf Pack.

Many walls and barriers have been torn down since 1948, when President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which authorized women to serve permanently in all military branches.

While we tend to see more and more women integrated into career fields across the Air Force, it’s still fairly uncommon to see female military working dog, or MWD, handlers.

“I love being in an environment where gender doesn’t matter,” said Staff Sgt. Amelia Ruiz, 8th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “You have to put in the work to get the results that you want.”

The MWD program, located at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, is where Airmen go to become handlers.

“You have to prove you have the dedication and motivation to be a dog handler, and that includes the dirty tasks like [picking up after them] and cleaning the kennels,” Ruiz said. “Once proved, you’ll be signed off by the kennel master.”

While handlers learn the basics of obedience, corrections, patrol work and more during their initial training, there is much to be learned from those with experience in the field. 

“You have to have an open mind in this career,” said Staff Sgt. Jenavieve Trinidad, 8th SFS MWD handler. “A lot of people have a hard time taking constructive criticism, but it’s important to learn from the more experienced handlers who have deployed and who have dealt with different types of dogs you may not have handled before.”

Handlers work with their canines to train on various skillsets, to include detecting explosives, searching for drugs, and providing real-world deterrents. The MWDs practice how to patrol and even how to bite correctly. It is a serious line of work that takes dedication and discipline.

“In the direction the military has gone and the direction of the program, it’s been very easy to prove that anyone can do this with hard work,” Ruiz said. “It’s not gender specific. There’s nothing in this career field that would hinder a female…besides their own mind.”