97 SFS builds better bonds through kennel renovations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

Military Working Dogs are a vital part of functional military teams, on and off the battlefield. MWD’s are trained to perform actions humans cannot, specifically duties like detecting explosives and drugs, finding lost or missing team members and patrolling areas with amplified senses. But in order to accomplish their mission and keep teammates safe, these four-legged Airmen must be taken care of too.

The 97th Security Forces Squadron MWD team partnered with squadrons from around the 97th Air Mobility Wing to renovate the MWD kennel facility to provide handlers and their dogs a comfortable work and living environment at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

 “Our mission goes so much further than just the security of the base,” said Staff Sgt. Cory Stoudemayer, a MWD trainer assigned to the 97th SFS. “But in order to accomplish our mission, we have to keep our facilities in top shape first.”

Some of the biggest renovations made to the kennels were: an entirely new air conditioning system designed to keep the dogs acclimated to the current temperature outside, a new wash station, veterinary rooms refurbished from old kennels and sound proof ceilings inside the kennels to prevent dog barks from echoing.

“By keeping this facility up to date, we are essentially keeping our dogs, handlers and teams working at the highest possible level that we can,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Holt, a MWD trainer assigned to the 97th SFS. “We need to be as ready as possible for anything that comes our way, and that means having the best equipment available to care for our teams.”

Airmen from the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron, 97th Contracting Flight and 97th Force Support Squadron assisted by donating extra work time to help build a better workspace for the dogs and their handlers. Additionally, the 97th Comptroller Squadron and the 97th Medical Group aided in the renovations through donations and construction.

“I think my favorite part about this whole project is that it was not just a Security Forces project,” said Holt. “Every squadron from the MSG had a part in this, and I think that is really something special. It shows just how much people care for us, our dogs and the quality of life we have here at the kennels.”

But the dogs were not the only ones benefiting from these changes. By refurbishing old furniture from around base, the MWD handlers turned a tight office area into an open and welcoming work center for the handlers to collectively spend work time together.

Holt explained how the purpose of turning the office area into an open work space was to encourage creative ideas to free-flow between the handlers and make the facility more of a “family” space. The open space can help foster new ideas, innovation and training techniques between the handlers much easier than before.

Additionally, the 97th SFS plans on installing an underground watering system to keep the training grounds green all year, which allows easier and more accessible training for the dogs and their handlers. 

As the cherry on top, the 97th SFS partnered with the 97th Maintenance Group to use the same tail flash decals displayed on the KC-135 Stratotanker for the walls inside each kennel. Holt explained how the tail flash decals remind the team of the mission and heritage of Altus AFB.

“Every Airmen works with somebody else on this installation - nobody is ever alone when accomplishing their mission,” said Stoudemayer. “We are fortunate enough to have dogs as our teammates, and the bond between a dog and their handler is something completely different than any other relationship. The dogs are such a huge part of our team and it is our job to take care of them, because we know they are going to take care of us.”