Senior Airman Mindy Bloem
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq — Throughout his military career, he has detected scores of bombs, located various weapon caches and searched countless vehicles. He is not your ordinary Airman; in fact, he is not human at all. He is a dog — a military working dog, to be exact.
Wodan, a German shepherd breed with a nose for spotting danger, began his military career in September 2003 at the age of 2 — that’s 14 in dog years. Wodan spent six years in military service, which includes three deployments.
Both Wodan, and his handler, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pospischil, are part of the 21st Security Forces Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base.
For the last three years, Wodan has been teamed with Sergeant Pospischil, currently assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron as a military working dog handler.
Although Sergeant Pospischil admits he is not normally a “huge dog person,” the time spent with Wodan has bonded him to the dog.
“He’s a daddy’s boy,” the sergeant said. “We’ve been together so long and, like with any dog, the longer you spend together, the stronger the bond.”
Sergeant Pospischil’s bond with Wodan first began when he cross trained and became a dog handler in 2007.
The first two weeks he spent with Wodan were in what he described as “the rapport stage.”
“The first week or two, all you do is play with your dog,” Sergeant Pospischil said. “You take him for walks, play fetch and just have fun together. You don’t correct him or give him commands. You are just building that relationship. After that, you go into the training stage.”
During the training stage, the dog learns to detect bombs and gets in a good working rhythm with its handler, said the sergeant.
Once trained, the dog becomes a huge military asset, Sergeant Pospischil added.
“They are a significant force multiplier,” he said. “One dog can do things that it takes many humans to do, and (these dogs) can even do things humans can’t. They can detect explosives and narcotics just by sniffing. They can search a whole building in the time it takes 10 security forces members to search it. And by doing so, they are keeping military members from putting their lives in danger.
With all the time handler and dog spend in both peacetime and war, it can be hard to maintain a purely professional relationship.
“It’s a battle that a lot of handlers have to fight,” Sergeant Pospischil said. “You have some that want to treat them as a pet, but you have to find the middle ground. You can’t get too attached because you have to get the mission done.
“I can recall a time or two when I had to step back and think maybe I am pampering him too much or treating him too much like a pet.”
Wodan is the only dog Sergeant Pospischil has worked with in his career as a handler, and that seems to be just fine with him.
“He matches my personality,” the sergeant joked. “I’ve always been told that the reason we work well together is because we’re both big, slow and clumsy.”
All joking aside, the handler knows what his dog can do and is grateful for how these dogs enhance the mission.
“The best thing they do is provide a psychological deterrent,” he said. “When people see them walking around or out by the gate, they are less likely to do bad things because they don’t know what the capabilities of these dogs are. These dogs are very intimidating to people.”
This rotation will be Wodan’s last. He and Sergeant Pospischil are set to return home, where Wodan will begin his retirement process.
Once Wodan’s retirement is finalized, Sergeant Pospischil said he plans to adopt the dog — an option many dog handlers take depending on if their dog is eligible or not.