Airman’s best friend; Dynamite Defender Duo

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell
  • Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs

Man’s best friend has been a staple to homes all across the county. In the armed forces that model is being used for a greater purpose.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cory Stoudemayer, 97th Security Forces military working dog handler, recently arrived at Altus Air Force Base after completing handler training. Becoming a MWD handler was the reason Stoudemayer joined the Air Force and has been a dream come true for him.

“I originally went to the Marines asking them about being a dog handler,” said Stoudemayer. “The recruiter referred me to the Air Force because all the branches train at Lackland Air Force Base. So I became security forces with the Air Force while not knowing it would take a while to become a handler. After six years and two bases I started my separation papers from the Air Force. While that was happening I got two emails, one saying I’m going to Altus and the other on congratulating me on making it into the handler course.”

Stoudemayer completed his technical training and is continuing it with on-the-job training with Zeus, 97th SFS patrol and drug detection dog. Zeus is one of the oldest and most experienced dogs that Altus AFB has.

“We have a long road ahead of us because we are pairing an eight year old dog with plenty of experience to a new handler with minimal experience,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Teresi, 97th SFS NCO in charge of MWD. “This is beneficial to Stoudemayer’s training because eventually Zeus will have to retire and we will receive a dog straight out of training with no operation experience and plenty of puppy energy.”

Zeus has become a professional MWD, but still is a dog at heart which Stoudemayer loves. His love for dogs has been a lifelong passion that started in his childhood.

“My dad actually had a dog kennel,” said Stoudemayer. “They were nothing like the dogs we use in the military, those dogs were for hunting. Still, I got to play with them every day so dogs have always been part of my life.”

Having a passion for dogs would steer anyone toward becoming a handler, but not just anyone can become a handler.

“Both the dog and the handler have to go through training,” said Stoudemayer. “In order to become a handler you have to be security forces first, send in an application then get a recommendation letter from a kennel master. For the training itself you have to understand a dog’s body language so both of us can do our job.”

The transition from being a security forces member to a MWD handler is not that much of a change. Stoudemayer is still in the transitional phase, but every moment is worth it for him.

“Being with the dog and finally making it as a handler has been all worth it,” said Stoudemayer. “I still have a lot to learn as far as on-the-job training and working with my own dog, but it will be fun. At my other bases I did a lot of security, but it’s been a while since I have been strictly law enforcement so that is also going a little bit of a transition.”

Being stationed as a handler at Altus AFB doesn’t mean staying here and constantly protecting the base. The handlers go to support local agencies and other locations on a temporary assignment.

“If I get to go places and see things with my dog that would be pretty cool,” said Stoudemayer. “If I got the chance to help local law enforcement or border patrol that would probably be a great opportunity for myself that happens all the time here.”

But Stoudemayer has a long road ahead of him before he can participate in any off station activities, first he must finish his training with his new partner.

“My last handler just departed a month ago,” said Teresi. “So I went a month without a handler designated to Zeus, so that dog is only receiving basic care and training until Stoudemayer got here. There is still training that Stoudemayer needs to be more familiar with his new partner so it’s going to be like I’m taking a fire hose of knowledge to him.”

Before a handler can go patrol with their new partner they have to show competency that they can understand the dog and perform proper techniques. Having the MWD’s patrol and defend Altus AFB is a basic necessity that base needs.

“The dogs are here to counter drugs, a vital asset to keep proper health and welfare,” said Teresi. “They are a patrol ability and an anti-force multiplier keeping the base residents safe from what the defenders are unable to see or smell. We can’t have Airmen training at this base if they are not safe and these dogs are another way we provide that.”

Stoudemayer has achieved his dream at this base by finally becoming a MWD handler. Once his training is complete, Zeus and he will be patrolling the streets of this base ensuring the safety of the base residents so they can accomplish the mission.