04/26/09 — Security Forces shares glimpse of real-world duties

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Security Forces shares glimpse of real-world duties

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 26, 2009 2:00 AM

Haley Davis looked confused as she watched Staff Sgt. John Whisman playfully wrestle his German shepherd to the ground.

"I thought you said he was mean, Mom," she said, pointing to the tongue-flapping, tail-wagging dog at the end of the airman's leash. "He doesn't look scary."

"He is mean," her mother, Susan, replied. "He's only nice to that man because he is his daddy."

Mrs. Davis is right, Whisman said.

In fact, Benny is one of the toughest Military Working Dogs stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"Don't let him fool you," Whisman said. "He's real mean."

Haley, a 6-year-old from Smithfield, was one of dozens of children who took in the 4th Fighter Wing Security Forces detail's MWD demonstration at Seymour Johnson's air show and open house Saturday.

Krystal Staton, was another.

"What does that doggy do?" the 5-year-old asked while pulling on her father, Doug's, shorts.

"He catches bad guys," he replied, looking down. "He keeps us safe."

The demonstration was designed to show civilians MWDs in attack situations.

But it was also a chance for the public to meet some of the men, women and canines who patrol the desert when deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whisman is no stranger to roadside bombs and firefights.

And several members of his unit are currently in Iraq, he said -- doing the work put on display at Wings Over Wayne.

So he welcomed the opportunity to get "attacked" by MWD Ralph for those who turned out for the demonstration -- to showcase the efforts of those comrades who have yet to make it back home from war.

"It's cool to show them what we do every day," Whisman said. "People don't realize that our guys are still downrange."

Joshua Lawson would like to be among them someday.

So the 13-year-old made sure to get a feel for each of the weapons other members of the detail had on display a few feet away.

"It's so heavy," he said, bringing an M-4 assault rifle up to eye level. "But I could get used to it. This is so cool."

Staff Sgt. Doug Langlois knows that particular gun well.

He carried one during his last tour in Iraq.

But his weapon of choice, a .50-caliber machine gun, was mounted on the ground a few feet away.

"That's my baby right there," the airman said, recalling the mission during which he shot through an enemy vehicle. "It's a powerful weapon."

Danny Farmer could only imagine.

"I bet you could shoot down anyone or anything with this," the 11-year-old said, as he sprawled across the ground behind the gun and stared down its barrel. "That's it. I am totally going to join the Air Force when I turn 18."

"It would be an honorable job," his grandfather, Ernie, replied. "But maybe you should think on it for a while longer. What these guys do, it's dangerous business. They aren't messing around."

And it is daunting work, Whisman would tell you -- enduring six- and seven-month deployments; leaving friends and family behind; missing milestones, as he did when his daughter was born while he was in Iraq.

At just after 2 p.m., Whisman put a large pad on his arm and showed Haley and others just how fierce those seemingly docile dogs really are.

He approached Staff Sgt. Brad Camp and Ralph, a Belgian Malinois who packs quite a bite.

"If you move, my dog will attack you," Camp said. "Do you understand?"

Ralph stayed calm.

But when Whisman ignored his handler's orders and took off running, the dog quickly followed.

Moments later, he lunged with jaws open and took a bite of the padding protecting Whisman.

Camp let out a "woo" and told Ralph to hang on.

The dog complied, releasing his captive only when the command was given.

"That's a smart dog," said Billy Walters, a 9-year-old who traveled with his parents from Elizabeth City for the show. "I bet he can catch anybody."

"He sure can," his father, Craig, replied. "I bet you feel safer now -- knowing these guys are out there protecting us."

"Yes sir," Billy said. "But I'm not going up to him. He might bite my arm off."