Women’s History Month spotlight: 55th SFS K-9 handlers

  • Published
  • By L. Cunningham, 55th Public Affairs
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska – The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act signed in 1948 allow women into the military in limited roles. This was expanded upon in the mid-1970’s allowing them into all career fields instead of being restricted to the administrative, clerical and nursing fields.  

Women were finally able to work in confinement and corrections and as military working dog handlers alongside their male counterparts. Offutt Air Force Base currently has two women in the 55th Security Forces Squadron K-9 Unit, one of which holds the highest-ranking title - the kennel master.

“Women weren’t recognized back in the day, they were home taking care of the kids and the men did all the outside labor,” said Tech. Sgt. Shauna Perkins, 55th SFS K-9 Unit kennel master. “Recognizing women’s history is important. It has changed and evolved, and it’s great to see where it is going.”

While canine units have been predominantly filled by men in the past, more and more women are showing interest in becoming dog handlers, trainers and kennel masters.

“I think this shows that women can do the same jobs that a guy can without any issues and get the job done,” said Senior Airman Casi Smith, 55th SFS MWD handler. “I have never doubted myself as a female because I am strong, and I have been through a lot in my life. Taking care of a parent when I was really young, it made me who I am today and plays into my military and my dog kenneling career.”

People interested in becoming a handler or trainer, must first apply. If accepted, the handler attends a three-month course. Training to become a handler/trainer is an additional one-month course. Earning the kennel master title requires additional online training.

Becoming a military working dog handler, trainer or kennel master is not everyone’s dream. According to both women, passion for wanting to accomplish something is the key.

“You can do anything you set your mind to, no matter the things you have been through in your life,” said Smith. “Just by being confident, mentally and physically strong, putting in the time and work, and having the motivation and passion and not letting obstacles get in your way.”