UPDATE: MWD memorial grounds get March 4 clean up

Tech. Sgt. John Kroll, the 10th Security Forces Squadron Kennel Master, bonds with one of the several military working dogs he manages at the 10th SFS MWD Memorial Grounds, March 2, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

Tech. Sgt. John Kroll, the kennel master at the 10th Security Forces Squadron, bonds with one of the several military working dogs he manages March 2, 2017. The 10th SFS MWD Memorial Grounds can be found near the Archery Club at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

Senior Airman Alexis Fierro shares a moment with her military working dog, "Nick," at the 10th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, March 2, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Fierro is one of the squadron's military working dog handlers. Airmen from the squadron are scheduled to give the grounds a complete brush-up March 4, 2017.

Senior Airman Alexis Fierro shares a moment with her military working dog, "Nick," at the 10th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, March 2, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Fierro is one of the squadron's several military working dog handlers. Airmen from the squadron are scheduled to give the grounds a complete brush-upm March 4, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

Staff Sgt. Melissa Burns, the Military Working Dog trainer for the
10th Security Forces Squadron, holds "Rruuk," a military working dog assigned to the squadron, March 2, 2017, at the MWD Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

Staff Sgt. Melissa Burns, the Military Working Dog trainer for the 10th Security Forces Squadron, holds "Rruuk," a military working dog assigned to the squadron, March 2, 2017, at the MWD Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

Headstones for military working dogs are seen at the 10th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, Mar 4. The site is cared for by MWD handlers assigned to the squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Headstones for military working dogs are seen at the 10th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, Mar 4. The site is cared for by MWD handlers assigned to the squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Master Sgt. Mitchell Stein of the 10th Security Forces Squadron cuts a log with a chainsaw, March 4 at the Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Stein and about 20 other Airmen and volunteers cleared the grounds of debris and brush. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Master Sgt. Mitchell Stein of the 10th Security Forces Squadron cuts a log with a chainsaw, March 4 at the Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Stein and about 20 other Airmen and volunteers cleared the grounds of debris and brush. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Headstones for military working dogs are seen at the 10th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, Mar 4. The site is cared for by MWD handlers assigned to the squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Headstones for military working dogs are seen at the 10th Security Forces Squadron's Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds, Mar 4. The site is cared for by MWD handlers assigned to the squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Master Sgt. Mitchell Stein of the 10th Security Forces Squadron cuts a log with a chainsaw, March 4 at the Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Stein and about 20 other Airmen and volunteers cleared the grounds of debris and brush. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

Master Sgt. Mitchell Stein of the 10th Security Forces Squadron cuts a log with a chainsaw, March 4 at the Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Stein and about 20 other Airmen and volunteers cleared the grounds of debris and brush. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexis Fierro)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

Security Forces Airmen spruced up the Military Working Dog Memorial Grounds here March 4, clearing the site of debris and brush for several MDWs laid to rest.    


In all, 20 volunteers showed up to give the site a respectable appearance, said Tech. Sgt. John Kroll, the 10th Security Forces Squadron'S kennel master. The group raked the area, moved logs and planted fallen headstones back into the ground. 

 

"The grounds look much better," Kroll said. "There is still work to be done, but overall the clean up effort was a success. We were only there for 90 minutes due to all the support."  

 

Earlier in the month, Kroll said the site needed work.

“We need to get it back on par,” he said. 

Kroll said the military working dogs deserve a well-tended memorial.


“The MWDs don’t know how to give anything less than their all,” he said. “We owe it to them for their unwavering loyalty and dedication.”


No matter the circumstance, the MWDs trust their handlers, Kroll said.


“In turn, they only desire a simple toy and words of praise or affirmation,” he said.  


Kroll said MWDs are ready to die for their handlers.


“Their efforts on the front lines prevent others from making such a sacrifice,” he said. “The most rewarding thing I’ve been told in my career was after a patrol in Afghanistan. A young Airman said, ‘thank you for what you do. We feel a lot safer when we have canines out in front of us.’”


Senior Airman Alexis Fierro, an MWD hander here, said there’s a reason for the term “MWD team.”


“One would not be able to get the mission done without the other,” she said. “The MWD's are responsible for saving the lives of many people due to their detection capabilities. If my MWD and I find an explosive overseas or even stateside, why should I be the only one to be recognized?” 


Several Air Force Security Forces MWDs have died in the line of duty.


“For this, they deserve to be honored and remembered just as their human counterparts will be,” Fierro said.


The Academy’s MWDs are German Shepherds or Belgium Malinois.  


“Their main mission is explosive and narcotics detection support,” Kroll said. “They’re also trained in patrol work and protecting their handler. We often say ‘K9’ leads the way,’ meaning we’re out in front, trying to detect any threats to those behind us.”


Fierro’s MWD is “Nick,” a two-and-a-half year old Belgian Malinois. They paired-up in December.


“The rapport-building is a constant process but, for the short time we’ve been together, we have a great bond,” she said. 


Fierro said the link between the handlers and their MWDs is difficult to define.


“It’s unexplainable, to connect with an animal that started out with no trust or confidence in you,” she said.


Fierro said the MWDs don’t give-up their most prized possession, usually a chew toy, to just anyone.


“A simple task such as telling the dog to let go of a toy can become very difficult, but the day "Nick" trusted me to give him the only reward he ever gets was a great feeling,” she said.


Kroll said the MWDs are as important as their human handlers.


“For me, their most vital job takes place during deployments,” he said. “We’re there in front of a squad, trying to bring Airmen back to mom and dad. Some MWDs spend more time in combat environments than Airmen who serve 20 years. I have literally seen some MWDs come back from a deployment and do a ‘turn and burn’ -- head back out the door to pre-deployment training in a month.”  


Fierro said the MWD's provide a tremendous service to the Academy and the Defense Department.


“They are able to do things that we as humans do not have the capability of doing,” she said. “To this day, there is no machine or invention that can detect the things dogs can. They are able to bridge the gap between life and death for their handler and the lives of the people they protect.”


The 10th SFS will participate in National Police Week in May. Kroll hopes to schedule an official dedication of the MWD memorial site then.


“The goal is to establish a legacy tradition for the canines,” he said. “We want to capture the past, present and future of the 10th SFS’s MWDs. Ultimately, we’d like to put up a bronze statue with plaques containing the dogs’ names.”  


Scattered at the memorial site are the ashes of 10th SFS MWDs Aghbar, Ginger and Taint.


Aghbar was a German shepherd and Ginger was a German shorthaired pointer. Taint was a Belgian Malinois.


The clean-up at the memorial grounds on Sumac Drive starts at 9 a.m. Volunteers are welcome to assist and meet the MWD teams. 


“Because of the hard work our MWDs put in to the mission to protect their handler and others, providing a memorial for the MWDs is really such a small token for us to be able to give back to them,” Fierro said.