Stand Out Female: MWD Handler

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Danielle Conde
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
"After two weeks of spending time with him, Alex finally recognized me," said Senior Airman Ashley Wendler, 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. "I was no long just his trainer, but he now saw me as 'mom.'"

Since being assigned as partners, 25-year-old Wendler from Baltimore, Maryland, and her new 4-year-old German shepherd MWD, Alex, have been working together to strengthen their relationship in order to become a successful team at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

"I can thank a dog handler from my first base," said Wendler when asked how she initially became interested in this security forces shred. "He was truthful, informative and, above all, honest about the job and all that it entailed."

This career field is vital to the Air Force operation because it involves defeating threats inside and outside the base boundary stateside and abroad. MWD teams often work alongside sister services on the front lines to detect and deter potential adversaries.

Becoming a handler is not as simple as volunteering for the job. Wendler was required to go to an initial interview to determine if she was qualified before being able to attend a handler training program. Upon completing the course, she then returned to Ramstein AB to be assigned to her first MWD named Nira.

However, with just a little under a year and a half of experience being a handler, Wendler got permanent change of station orders. In Sept. 2014, she said goodbye to Nira and she moved to MacDill to be teamed up with Alex.

"Senior Airman Wendler has fit right in and started building the team bond with her assigned MWD," said Tech Sgt. Lewis Collins, 6th SFS MWD kennel master. "She has put in the work to build their bond by coming in during her off time to work with the dog and build their partnership."

Today, MacDill's K-9 unit has 12 MWD and handler teams, who train a minimum of five to six hours a day to specialize in bomb and narcotic detecting and patrol work. However, since Wendler and Alex are such a new team their primary focus is to build rapport and train in tactical obedience.

"You are solely responsible for the dog, and it takes more than just the duty day to build a relationship," said Wendler. Like Collins mentioned, Wendler often comes in on weekends to spend time with Alex in order to understand his behavior and thinking process.

As soon as Alex has accomplished the tactical obedience, the team will be able to move forward in their training and eventually go on deployments together.

"We are a team, he is my partner," she said. "The most rewarding part of my job is that I know we are on the absolute frontline when it comes to the protection of my fellow service members in both deployed locations and stateside operations."

Editor's note:
Senior Airman Wendler is the second of five females to be selected to be featured as a stand-out female Airman at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.