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Featured Profile for Military Working Dog Handler

Christopher Vogt

As early as the age of five, I knew I wanted to join the Military. I even knew which Service I wanted to join since my father was in the Marine Corps he was more than happy to pass along advice to help me succeed.

My father told me that Recruit Training was the hardest thing he ever did in his life and that if I didn’t prepare for it, I would be challenged. He made sure I was ready for it.

After Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, I began training for the military police (MP). I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school. At the end of MOS school, I went before a board and was selected to be a military working dog handler for HMX-1, Marine Helicopter Squadron.

In HMX-1, Marine Helicopter Squadron, we are in direct support of the president of the United States. We protect the helicopters and all assets that are involved with the movement of the president. There are only six dogs in the squadron.

I work with an explosive detector dog named Kepie. Kepie is a longhaired German shepherd, and he is six years old. Like all other military working dogs, Kepie began training at Lackland Air Force Base, and then he was sent to HMX- 1. At HMX-1, I began to build a close relationship with Kepie.

Once you pick up a military working dog, you first build rapport. You go out there; you walk with them; you play with them. That dog needs to learn you. He needs to trust everything you say, so he needs to be able to know your voice and be able to know what you do and how you’re going to react.

Every day, I train Kepie in obedience and in patrol work. Kepie must know how to interact with civilians who are friendly toward him and those who may be engaging in suspicious behavior. Kepie and his fellow military working dogs also go through physical training (PT), just like their handlers.

The dogs are just as much Marines as we are, so they PT every day just like us. If we go on a run, they go on a run with us.

Kepie and I often travel as part of the mission to help protect the president. Before the president arrives at a location, Kepie and I patrol the area to make sure that there are no explosives nearby.

As for the future, I expect to be deployed, and I am applying to become a canine handler for a Marine Special Operations Command unit. I am attending college, and hope to stay in the law enforcement field, either in or out of the Marine Corps. I am also planning to adopt Kepie once Kepie retires.

Working with a dog… there’s nothing else like it. The love they have for you and how they’ll protect you in any case – it’s unbelievable.

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