Last week, Inlander photographer Young Kwak traveled with a crew from Fairchild Air Force Base to the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Read his previous posts here.
“My dog is a very aggressive dog. He will lunge at you,” says K9 Handler Senior Airman Matthew Pettit, before retrieving Yyoda, a Belgian Malinois Military Working Dog (MWD), from his patrol vehicle. He warns onlookers at the start of an exercise to stay near the fence line of the training area.
Standing next to Yyoda, Pettit orders Kennel Master E5 Staff Sergeant Janna McDonald, who is standing in front of them wearing a bite suit, to stay in place. She stays still for a few seconds and then runs.
Pettit forcefully says “get” and drops the leash. Immediately, Yyoda runs after McDonald, bites her arm and tackles her, all within seconds. Pettit catches up with the two, sees that McDonald is no longer a threat, says “leave” and tugs. After a few seconds Yyoda lets go and sits next to Pettit, who then says “stay” to make sure that Yyoda understands the exercise is over.
Speaking about Yyoda’s energy, Pettit says, “You notice it more in patrol work. You see the drive.” They repeat the exercise a few times. Petit gives Yyoda several "good boys" when he successfully accomplishes tasks during the exercises.
Yyoda, a 4-year-old when he was paired with Pettit, got a double first letter on his first name because he was bred by the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Breeding Program — the “puppy program” — at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Puppies bred by the Department of Defense are given double first letters on their names to differentiate them from dogs bred elsewhere. The two have been together about a year.
Pettit and Yyoda are one of seven working K9 units at the Transit Center at Manas, part of the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron/K9. They patrol the fence line at the transit center and inspect vehicles at security check point search pits. Yyoda is also trained as an explosives detector. MWDs regularly check commercial aircraft contracted to carry troops before before boarding at the transit center.
Pettit estimates that Yyoda has another four to six years of service left. His fate after service is unknown. But, since the passage of H.R. 5314, “Robby’s Law”, in 2000, an effort has been made to make MWDs available for adoption to people and agencies that can take proper care of the dogs.