For some dog lovers, scrolling through puppy photos on Facebook is enough. For Corporal (CPL) Natasha Falconer, becoming a Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler in the RAAF is the way to go.
Growing up in Ipswich, Queensland, CPL Falconer said she has always loved animals and has had dogs all her life.
“I found out about the MWD Handler job from my husband, who was an Airfield Defence Guard at the time,” said CPL Falconer.
“After talking to several MWD Handlers I realised this was the right job for me as I am passionate about animals, and it would give me the opportunity to travel the world while serving my country.”
CPL Falconer was posted to Number 2 Security Forces Squadron (2SECFOR) in RAAF Base Amberley after graduating from her Initial Employment Training. She was under the supervision of Flight Sergeant (FSGT) Russell Durre, who soon became a fantastic mentor and role model to her.
“I was so excited to be paired with my first MWD ‘Xana’, a highly confident, loyal and intelligent German Shepherd,” said CPL Falconer.
“The first 12 months was pretty intense as I had to focus on bonding with Xana, as well as training and developing Xana and myself as a team to reach operational standards.”
Following 2SECFOR, CPL Falconer was posted to 3SECFOR in RAAF Base Edinburgh, where she again worked for FSGT Russell Durre.
“I enjoyed working with FSGT Durre as he was very experienced, enthusiastic, approachable and fair,” said CPL Falconer.
“More importantly, he provided me with very clear guidance on my role and taught me important lessons about leadership.
“I instructed two MWD Initial Employment Training courses last year and the important lessons FSGT Durre taught me allowed me to transition into a leadership role smoothly.
“I have met many other good leaders like FSGT Durre in the RAAF, and I think that’s a great experience in itself!”
CPL Falconer is currently posted to the Breeding Cell of RAAF Security and Fire School.
“My role involves the facilitation of our breeding program - from artificial insemination, pregnancy, birth, through to raising and training of puppies in the first three months of their lives,” CPL Falconer said.
“I love this job because it is so rewarding – not only because I am contributing to the bringing of new MWD puppies to the world, but also because my puppies and I get to travel to different communities in Australia to promote the RAAF.
“In fact, MWD Puppy ‘Cyra’ and I just returned from Exercise Pitch Black Open Day in Darwin, where we met many families and sparked interests about the RAAF and the MWD role.”
When CPL Falconer is not working, she enjoys training her three-year-old female Belgian Malinois to compete in sports dog trials.