MWD Program strengthens families and the force

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Kate Anderson
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — The journey of a military working dog from raw potential to a fully trained warrior is not quick and easy. This transformation commences within the homes of puppy foster families.   

As the result of one such home, the Air Force Defender community recently gained another four-legged warrior within its ranks, following an emotional reunion with his foster family. 

Military Working Dog, AAbaba, was fostered by one of the 37th Training Wing’s very own, Maxine Ababa – the wing’s senior protocol specialist. About a year following the death of her late husband, Ababa had the opportunity to foster an MWD, suitably named AAbaba, from the 341st Training Squadron’s breeding program. Hoping to help ease her children's grief of losing their father, Ababa said “yes” to a 6-week-old Belgian Malinois, giving him his start in life.  

MWD AAbaba spent approximately seven months with the two-legged family of four, learning basic manners, socializing and just how be a dog before returning to the MWD training program and pairing up with MA1 Cody Ringler as his handler. Throughout the training, Ringler and MWD AAbaba excelled; moreover, they completed the explosive detection training and patrol dog training in 67 days -- approximately half the time it typically takes. 

AAbaba graduated from his training on August 8, 2023, and will be stationed at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., with the 9th Security Forces Squadron.  

However, just before leaving, MWD AAbaba reunited with his foster mom and her son, Jordan, so they could see all the hard work he put in to be a professional military working dog.  

 “It’s bittersweet seeing him grown up after having a hand in his care since he was a puppy,” said Ababa, who has been connected to the Defender community since working at the 37 TRW since 2016.  

According to Ababa, fostering the MWD deepened that connection to the Defender community and strengthened her own family.  

Dogs, like AAbaba, born here through the military working dog breeding program can be identified by the double letters at the beginning of their names. Once a litter of puppies are whelped and weaned, they get placed into foster homes within, and around, the San Antonio and Austin areas so they can get started on the right paw.  

The families they are paired with are encouraged to socialize the dogs and provide them with the highest quality care before returning them to the training program. Foster families are provided everything they need to care for the puppies including dog food, veterinary care equipment, toys, and training.  

Since the dogs the Air Force breeds are highly energetic Belgian Malinois, there are a few requirements foster families must meet, including a secure 6-foot fence, no children under five years of age, no more than three other dogs, and must live within two hours of San Antonio. The foster family also needs to be able to bring the puppy to socialization and training sessions over the course of time they have the puppy (6 weeks-7 months).  

“We take immense pride in the strength built between us and the community through the MWD puppy foster volunteer program. This program thrives on the support from these exceptional foster family volunteers and their continued dedication throughout the years. They are a true force multiplier for the MWD enterprise and the 37th Training Wing,” said Major Jordan Criss, 341st Training Squadron commander.  

To apply to be a MWD puppy foster family, email