Roger Parton says his next door neighbour before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) was a Police dog handler and he liked dogs himself so it was a natural fit to apply for the first RNZAF Military Working Dog handler course in 1966.
“I originally joined in 1964 in the Supply trade but then transferred to the Air Force Police and subsequently volunteered for the dog unit,” says Roger.
“I completed a three month training course at the NZ Police College Dog Training School in Trentham and was then posted to Whenuapai. As it worked out I was the first person to do the first dog patrol at the base.”
The military dog unit was established as a force protection element for the recently acquired Orions operated by 5 SQN. It was originally made up of four handler and dog teams and the job has changed a fair bit since Roger was in service.
“The job was pretty straightforward, we did a lot of patrols up and down the tarmac, but it was great working with a dog and forming that bond with an animal. After three and a half years in the job I was posted and my dog SAKI went to another new handler.”
“It’s good to see how the job has grown in the last fifty years, the dog teams going overseas and the exercises with other Air Force units for instance. When I visited Whenuapai for the 50th anniversary of the dog unit I was amazed at the standard of training and the dogs’ abilities,” says Roger.
After his time in the dog unit, Roger was posted to Singapore for two years to work with the Royal Air Force Police, a job he thoroughly enjoyed.
“We were part of a unit responsible for anti-hijack and anti-bombs on aircraft. We also took on Singapore customs, immigration and public health duties for all international aircraft. It was one of the best experiences I had in the Air Force,” says Roger.
In 1977 Roger was commissioned and took up the Deputy Provost Marshal post before retiring from the service in 1984.
“When you look back on your time in the service you realise you put a lot into the Air Force but you also get a lot out of it. The range of skills and experiences you have in the Air Force, you can’t get anywhere else and the camaraderie with friends you make in Defence is quite special.”