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Wolf Pack MWD handlers defy the odds, serve together

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Timothy Dischinat
  • 8th Fighter Wing, Public Affairs

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- On a normal Air Force base it is common to see two wedlock individuals serving alongside each other, possibly with a pair of furry four-legged companions. However, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, is not your average assignment – a large majority of individuals come to this remote assignment unaccompanied for a one-year tour. Despite these odds, the Millers, Staff Sgt. Keola and Senior Airman Maddison, found a way to be stationed together at the same base, in the same squadron, in the same facility.

The two met at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, when Keola was already a Military Working Dog handler and Maddison was working in the base’s armory. She soon trained into a MWD handler position herself.

“We got orders here together before we were married,” exclaimed Keola. “Then we decided to tie the knot because it seemed like fate.”

Keola and Maddison are now both MWD handlers assigned to the 8th Security Forces Squadron. Keola is partnered with MWD Flex and Maddison is paired with MWD Klea.

Like most handlers, each day begins with preparing their companions for training and ensuring they are healthy.

“A normal training day for me and Klea includes basic obedience, teaching her new skills and going on patrol,” said Maddison. “We train on several open fields across the base, wooded areas, and all different terrains encompassing different scenarios.”

Dormitories on Kunsan are usually quad-style – four individual rooms with a common area, or sometimes larger individualized rooms for the higher ranking individuals. The Millers live in dedicated K-9 quads designed for emergency purposes.

“Since my husband and I are both K-9 handlers, we are required to have separate rooms with operational air conditioning,” said Maddison. “We usually just stay in his room when we only take home one of our dogs and it has worked well for us so far.”

Despite being married and working together, the Millers have shown they are able to properly balance their work schedule and personal time.

“It is something special to me, being able to share a passion at work and to be able to learn and grow together,” said Keola. “We don’t mind being around each other that much because our personalities are essentially the same.”

“We worked during the day together for the first month on station, but now I work swing shift,” said Maddison. “We're good about separating personal and work life. A majority of our day is spent training anyway so there's not a lot of room to just sit around and socialize.”

Even their leadership has taken notice of their outstanding work ethic.

“Upon their arrival, they have been able to maintain such an excellent professional relationship it’s hard to even tell they are married,” said Tech. Sgt. Adamma Bilal, 8th SFS kennel master. “They push each other as handlers to improve and get better. They feed on each other’s experience and knowledge to create two excellent Airmen and handlers.”

The Millers are off to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, after this assignment, where they may or may not continue to serve together as MWD handlers.

“It is never known for sure if we are going to be a part of this career field with every PCS,” said Keola. “We would like to go to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, where I could be a part of the 341st Training Squadron training puppies and she could be on the other side, still in the K-9 world operationally.”

“I have absolutely no idea what our work life will look like over there,” added Maddison. “I plan on staying in the K-9 section for as long as I can.”