Search News

Cannon News

US Army veterinarians provide training for Air Force military working dog handlers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Storer and Airman 1st Class Cassidy Thomas
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Army Veterinary Corps members from a Public Health Activity tenant unit at Kirtland Air Force Base conducted quarterly tactical care training with U.S. Air Force 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog (MWD) handlers, Feb. 14, 2022.

As some of the only military veterinarians in New Mexico, the Army animal care specialists traveled from Kirtland AFB to train the dog handlers for emergency combat care situations so they can administer first aid to their dogs in field conditions where veterinary services are unavailable.

“The dog handlers are trained in emergency combat care so they can treat field injuries before a vet can get in touch with them,” said U.S. Army Capt. Cynthia Edgerton, Army Veterinary Corps officer. “Some of the processes we go over include eye injuries, limb injuries, shock recognition, dehydration, and hot and cold weather injuries.”


With the classroom training and hands-on laboratory exercise, handlers were able to familiarize themselves with various wraps and bandages by applying them to an MWD from the 27 SOSFS. This granted each handler an opportunity to treat a simulated life-threatening injury on a dog.

“The vets teach us MWD care techniques to use in times of emergency,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Leah Abelar, 27 SOSFS military working dog handler. “We don't have a vet on site here and the nearest veterinary treatment facility is three and a half hours away. A real life emergency will require us to be able to think on our feet and provide potentially life-saving care to the military working dog.”

The Army Veterinary Corps is vital to the Department of Defense by providing support for all branches of the military.

“Being able to do integrated training on a quarterly basis not only keeps us sharp as handlers, but it also brings the element of being able to learn from our brothers and sisters from different branches,” said Abelar.

These skills taught to the handlers are vital to operations in deployed locations, where MWDs are utilized often.

“MWDs are an invaluable asset to the Air Force because they are able to not only execute tasks on day-to-day operations, but also serve as a physical deterrent, a force multiplier, and are able to sniff out danger,” said Abelar. “There is no piece of military or civilian technology equal or better than a dog’s nose.”