Top cop has roots in K-9 handling

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emerald Ralston
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
A Veterans Day ceremony was held in Fort Benton Nov. 11, in conjunction with a Military Working Dog memorial dedication ceremony. To some, it was just a ceremony and a dedication, but to one Malmstrom member, it was a way to reminisce and relive the past, while being part of the ceremony. 

Col. John Probst, 341st Security Forces Group commander, spoke at the events, telling his stories of the military and working with various K-9 units. Colonel Probst was an enlisted K-9 handler from the time he was drafted into the military in 1971, until he made the decision to commission in 1981. 

"I miss working with dogs every day," Colonel Probst said. "It is a great job and you can learn a lot about yourself. It helps you realize the value of a true, loyal companion. Dogs don't fear, they don't look at their watch, they're just happy to please and always on duty. They don't think about the repercussions of their actions. They just know when they have to respond, they have to respond immediately." 

Members of Malmstrom's K-9 unit were at the Fort Benton ceremony to demonstrate just that - the reaction, obedience and control the dogs have. 

Before the MWD demonstration, Colonel Probst spoke a little about his experiences as a dog handler. He said it was an honor to be part of the ceremony. 

"The thrill was being in such a quaint but heartfelt ceremony," he said. "In such a small town to be so aware of the importance of heritage, tradition and what our veterans represent, it sends a clear signal that in the heartland of America there are still a lot of people who appreciate our veterans, both two- and four-legged." 

During his 10 years working with MWDs, Colonel Probst said he had a lot of memorable experiences. One of the memorable assignments he had was when he was stationed at Clark Air Base, Philippines. 

"It was a memorable assignment because that was one of the few places that still had handlers making catches - or finding people who had penetrated the base intending to steal things," he said. "We could go out and try to find them at night. If you stayed out in the weeds and on the worn paths the perpetrators would use, if you were careful you could find someone. Sometimes if you challenged them and they didn't comply, you could catch someone. Some nights we had dog bites. It was memorable because there weren't many places like that left, and as a handler, making the catch or the bust is the most thrilling part. You work hard, the dog works hard, and suddenly there you are, you have the bad guy in cuffs or the narcotics apprehended. It was the challenge and the reward at the same time." 

Another part that stuck out in Colonel Probst's mind of his MWD days was his year and a half spent as an instructor at the Security Police Academy, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. 

"The most rewarding part was when I was teaching," Colonel Probst said. "It was great to watch someone who came in from day one to the day they graduated. The confidence and skills they had, and their ability to go out at the end and work a dog safely and provide good security was very rewarding." 

One of the things the colonel said he missed about working with dogs was his last dog, Bushka. 

"Bushka had a bad reputation, but after I started working with him it was obvious he just needed someone just as goofy as he was to get along with. It was a perfect match," the colonel said with a smile. 

But while he may miss his days as a dog handler, Colonel Probst said his job now is just as rewarding and important. 

"I decided to commission in 1982 by joining ROTC at the University of Texas and I came back as an officer in 1985," he said. "Our career field as security forces challenges everyone from day one, enlisted and officers, to develop leadership skills at a fast and furious pace. Security forces is the largest career field for enlisted Air Force active duty, so even when you're an airman first class, you've already started to report on people and lead them. So it became very challenging and exciting for me to find new ways to lead people." 

After being a leader on the enlisted side, Colonel Probst saw the commissioned side as far more challenging due to the numbers. At Malmstrom, enlisted security forces members outnumber officers 50 to one, Col. Probst pointed out. When a new second lieutenant comes to Malmstrom and gets processed in and picks up a flight, they suddenly have 70 Airmen to supervise. So being a security forces officer was a huge leadership challenge and I thought that would make it even more fun and exciting." 

Even once he became an officer, Colonel Probst got the chance to work with the K-9s when he became the commander of the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland. 

"I got the whole trifecta of the K-9 world," he said. "I got to be a student, an instructor and finally commander." 

Colonel Probst said the overall most rewarding part of being a security forces commander is being able to help in any way he can, and watching his troops recognize their potential. 

"This is an outstanding group," he said. "We have more than 1,100 professional defenders and watching them get stronger every day and more effective at their jobs, my role is just to find a way to support them. I'm the luckiest guy in the world - I have 1,100 superb bosses."