Who let the dog out: 934 ASTS Airman trains therapy dog for wing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Colten Tessness
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Everyone deserves emotional support outlets they can turn to in times of need. Some people might turn to a relative or a friend, while others may seek out a mentor.

The members of the 934th Airlift Wing have several of these resources they can use if they need assistance. One of those resources is Diesel, the 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron therapeutic dog, trained by his handler, Staff Sgt. Scott Kosmatka, a 934th ASTS medical records technician.

Introducing a therapeutic dog to the 934 AW was an idea that Chief Master Sgt. Kimberly Lord, the former 934 AW command chief, proposed and asked anyone interested to submit a request fo headquarters to view. Kosmatka decided to take that challenge head-on, knowing it would be an excellent opportunity to help his fellow Airmen. With the help of his supervisors, he submitted the request in September 2021, followed by a year-long turnover for approval.

During that time, Kosmatka started training with Diesel as a local handler working towards a canine good citizen certification. Diesel recently passed his CGC exam in March 2022. Kosmatka did not have this training in mind for Diesel when he initially adopted him back in 2020.

“I never had any plans of making him a CGC dog,” said Kosmatka. “I just had plans of him being mine,” said Kosmatka.

Kosmatka had two Doberman dogs when Lord pitched the idea. He thought Diesel would be the perfect dog for the job due to his relaxed demeanor.

“He has got that attitude where he just wants to be pet and loved by everybody,” said Kosmatka. “I thought he would be the perfect fit.”

Going through the CGC training process together has only strengthened Kosmatka and Diesel’s bond. This process gave Kosmatka a new perspective on dog training since getting Diesel certified was more challenging than initially anticipated.

“I thought it was going to be a quick and easy class, but for about a year-and-a-half, we have both been working through vigorous training,” said Kosmatka. “Through that process, I have learned much more about Diesel and I have better understanding of his personality.”

Diesel’s job isn’t always easy and being away from Kosmatka can be difficult.

“We are trying to help him out with the separation anxiety, but it’s funny because you will hear him go down the hallway by the sound of tapping noises that his feet make while he is trying to find me,” said Kosmatka. “When I hear that, I yell his name, and then he will suddenly turn around and run in my direction.”

Even though Diesel is fully trained, Kosmatka thinks it’s good for him not to be at his side at all times. He tries to allow Diesel the opportunity to explore and meet as many new people around the 934 AW as he can.

When Diesel first got to the base, a few Airmen were a little apprehensive about having him around. One of them was Master Sgt. Danielle Graham, a 934 ASTS medical case manager, who unfortunately went through a very traumatic experience with a Doberman growing up and didn’t realize it had a lasting impact on her until Diesel arrived on base. This prompted her to maintain distance between herself and the dog, and they even ended up putting a bell on Diesel, so she was always aware of his location.

Over time, Graham slowly acclimated herself to Diesel. She has accomplished this by spending more time with him over a period of time. They have built a relationship that if Graham feels stressed at work, she feels comfortable visiting Diesel to relieve some of that stress.

Diesel has made a positive impact on members of the 934 AW. He has made such an impression that he received one of the highest 934 ASTS awards in 2022: The Silver Skate award. This is awarded to members who play a significant role within the unit.

“Whenever I don’t bring [Diesel] into work, people ask where he is,” said Kosmatka. “People care about him so much that he is family to everyone here, and they go to him for relaxation. The whole point of having Diesel around is to help service members feel more relaxed and comfortable, and if people feel uncomfortable, we will make sure he stays in the office.”