Oct 22, 2013 2:04 PM by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christine Griffiths

Deployed Lafayette soldier, dog help deter enemies and save lives

RAF MILDENHALL, England - I'm on the night shift, and I'm soaked to the bone. The wind is blowing icy gusts of rain in my eyes but I need to stay vigilant. If someone makes the wrong decision and tries to gain unauthorized access to the base, I'm going to stop him - by sheer force if necessary. I'll do anything required of me.

With razor sharp teeth and fearful growl, Zulton M766 is a military working dog whose very presence will deter and subdue enemies. One of eight military working dogs assigned to RAF Mildenhall, Zulton trains regularly with his partner, Staff Sgt. Barret Chappelle, 100th Security Forces Squadron MWD dog handler.

Chappelle has been Zulton's handler since February 2012, and he relies on Zulton every day. Their primary mission, while on station and in a deployed location, is to detect, delay and deter the enemy.

Chappelle begins his shift by building rapport with Zulton, giving the him a sense that it's time to work.

"When I come in the morning, he's excited to see me," said the Louisiana native. "But he knows when I walk in its time to work; he feeds off my personality. He knows it's time to 'hit it and get it or get out of the way!'"

After building rapport, the two begin their shift by attending guard mount. Guard mount ensures accountability of security forces members and provides airmen starting their shift any relevant information that should be passed on from previous shifts.

"At guard mount, they tell me what checks I have to perform during the day," Chappelle said.

Zulton and Chappelle perform walking patrols around base as well as search vehicles, facilities and aircraft as part of their daily training together. Their consistent presence is known to deter enemies.

"We also conduct and maintain a monthly optimum training requirement, which deals with patrolling, bite work, basic obedience and detection capabilities," the sergeant said. "We've also worked with (the 321st Special Tactics Squadron here and the 56th Rescue Squadron from RAF Lakenheath) on ground operations and helicopter conditioning."

Helicopter conditioning is beneficial for dog and handler, providing MWDs confidence training in and out of a helicopter for potential search and rescue scenarios.

Downrange, MWDs are highly-valuable assets that most military members don't realize they have. Recently, Chappelle and Zulton participated in military operations on urban terrain training to help other Airmen realize the effectiveness of MWDs.

"We did convoy operations, dismount operations and land navigation. The squad I was assigned to didn't care too much about Zulton; they didn't think he was a valuable asset," explained Chappelle. "But when Zulton hit an aid, they realized he essentially saved their lives by not going that route - they realized they needed to use him."

At the end of their day, after time spent training, Chappelle and Zulton's bond has strengthened. The communication they share exceeds that of most. They read and understand one another's social cues at a level others would have a hard time understanding. They need to be more than partners - they need to be wingmen.

"He is my best friend," Chappelle said. "I know Zulton would do anything for me. I'm confident in his capabilities; I trust him with my life in any situation. I also know he relies on me the same way."

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