NEWS | July 17, 2020

AFSFC launches software to monitor health of Military Working Dogs

By Rachel Kersey 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Security Forces Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has officially launched the Kennel Health Assessment 2.0 project to ascertain the holistic state of all of the kennels across the U.S. Air Force and ensure the well-being of all Military Working Dogs.

The project was started in 2018 as KHA 1.0 by Master Sgt. Steven Kaun, the current Air Force MWD program manager.

It had the basic bones of the current project, including the need to track the status of each individual kennel, but because of competing priorities, KHA had to take a backseat. It was revived again when AFSFC and Air Staff leadership recognized the need for this information. In this second iteration, they devised a way to assign a grade to each kennel in the Air Force system.

“This is instrumental in our ability to communicate to senior leaders and key decision-makers the data they need to make the most informed decisions when it comes to MWD readiness, health and its direct correlation to the MWD Kennel facilities, which house these sensitive, high-value assets,” said Tech. Sgt. Otho Nugent, Air Force MWD assistant program manager, who leads special project areas.

“Currently, there is nothing to capture the status of MWD kennels across the enterprise, and we recognize this is a problem, so we have created a comprehensive solution and the first-ever product to get after the problem,” Nugent added.

The team developed a custom workbook to analyze four major focus areas – administrative offices, kennel facilities, support areas, and veterinary support. It will also analyze 10 sub-focus areas and 32 graded areas. These parameters will be used to categorize and advocate for facility enhancements and renovations to properly support more than $116 million in MWDs.

Responses were solicited from 72 field units at permanent Air Force bases to complete the analysis. The information gathered will be compiled into a dashboard, which will show both individual and holistic kennel health across the Air Force. It is estimated that the information can be presented within 30 to 60 days to senior leaders and key decision-makers so the next steps can be taken to make any improvements necessary.

“With the proper support and funding, this product can be captured, updated and displayed in a web-controlled database allowing for live and analyzed data,” Nugent said. “Funding for this directly correlates to Air Force MWD health, safety, quality of life and overall readiness.”

The product will allow decision-makers to utilize the data to invest in their home kennels and ensure they are in compliance with the standards for kennel maintenance.

Kennels must be up to standard on sanitation and preventative health measures, including food quality, waste disposal, insect and rodent control, water supply, vaccinations, training of personnel, safety measures, and more, for mission readiness.

“Most wouldn’t think a kennel facility would have anything to do with readiness; however, this is inaccurate,” Nugent said. “MWDs are required to be housed in these facilities, and if these conditions are poor, then the health of the MWDs housed within them will diminish. 

“Ensuring our most valuable assets, people and MWDs, have the ability to perform what they have been tasked and trained to do is at the heart of readiness,” Nugent said. “It is our job as an Air Force to provide these basic foundational needs for our K-9s to ensure they can perform to their max potential at a moment’s notice.”

To effectively track this vital information, the staff members at the Air Force Security Forces Center wants to improve on KHA 2.0 and launch a more comprehensive database application that will contain the information collected and allow owner and users in the field to update the information as needed.

Funding an owner/user compatible database would allow the Air Force to control and monitor the information through contractual agreements, business rules and more. In the future, the team hopes to survey Readiness Training Centers and forward bases with an MWD footprint.

“In order to maintain the MWDs we have in inventory and continue to enlist MWDs into the USAF in accordance with our regulations, we need to invest our time, money, and efforts into our kennel facilities,” Nugent said. “MWDs are not seen as equipment but as sensitive, high-value assets that require training, love and attention to operate at Olympic levels by skilled handlers.”