Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

An Airman and his dog

Staff Sgt. Zerrick Shanks and Haus conduct a vehicle sweep.

Staff Sgt. Zerrick Shanks and Haus conduct a vehicle sweep.

By Butch Wehry

Academy Spirit staff

Staff Sgt. Zerrick Shanks and his working dog have deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

Their duties consist of searching vehicles, packages, equipment, luggage and random facilities to prevent possible terrorist attacks and help fight the Global War on Terrorism.

It’s the 10th Security Forces K-9 handler’s first deployment. His partner, Haus, is a German short-hair pointer who’d deployed as recently as 2007.

The duo has worked together for nine months and traveled aboard the same flight. Whenever deploying for the Air Expeditionary Force they always travel as a team.

Haus did surprisingly well on the trip, the dog handler said.

“He’s pretty much like a person when it comes to travel,” said the 26 year-old NCO from Atlanta. “He got on the plane and moved around a couple of times, then found a comfortable relaxed position and pretty much stayed there the whole flight. We had a couple of TDYs before I came over here on commercial flight lines where he actually flew up above with myself and the rest of the human passengers. He received compliments for his good behavior. I think he actually does better than some babies. He has had a great reaction to this country. Although I think the high temperatures over here are having a little affect on us. It’s still not stopping us from completing our mission.”

Most military working dogs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Haus is unique; the 4 year old, 57-pound canine was trained and certified locally by Academy kennel master Mr. Chris Jakubin.

“He is the first military working dog I have had the privilege of working with,” Sergeant Shanks said. “Haus has been trained basic obedience which is your common things like sit, and heel. He has also been trained many different types of explosive odors.”

A dog may be man’s best friend, but roommate?

“The living accommodations over here are pretty nice,” said the six-year Air Force veteran. “We have dorm rooms with bunk beds. Most rooms are three to four people PER room but with K-9, our rooms our considered our secondary kennel just in case something happens to our primary. We only have two handlers to a room with our kennels located in our rooms.”

The sergeant finds dining facilities are somewhat similar to those at the Academy and are open 24/7.

The kennels are within walking distance to the dorms.

“The threat of terrorism is definitely dangerous world-wide,” Sergeant Shanks said. “But the location that I am at is not as dangerous as the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. I still have to keep Haus and I alert at all times.”

“Haus has a great loving personality,” said the sergeant. “He loves to constantly be petted and be the center of attention. He’s known as the loudest one in the kennel because every time someone comes in walking down the center aisle he barks constantly to get some love and affection.”

He’s also a really hard worker,

“He’s constantly sniffing for odor,” said the handler. “Sometimes he’s working without me even giving him the proper commands. His hunt drive is so amazing that sometimes when we’re conducting training he would find explosives, then he seeks his reward, a tennis ball. Then he’d walk away and drop the tennis ball to go back to work for explosive odor.”

At the Academy, Haus is known as the public relations dog. “When we conduct military working dog demonstrations, we usually take Haus to do an open field search for explosives and to allow children a chance to pet a military working dog,” said Sergeant Shanks. “He’s also very popular at the Academy football games, if anyone wishes to see him or pet him they should definitely attend a game this season.”

By the time the handler returns to the Academy he hopes to have his Community College of the Air Force degree completed.

“I also want to save money while I’m on this deployment,” he said.

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