Carol Johnson was a K9 handler during her 20-year Navy career

Hometown Heroes

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) Carol Johnson has always had a soft spot for dogs, both in her military and personal life.

“I had dogs since I was a kid,” she said. “I grew up in the country and we always had dogs.”

Her 20-year career in the Navy began when she enlisted in 1981 at the age of 32. Her first job was an oceans system technician analyst.

“We tracked submarines and aircraft from unfriendly countries,” she said.

However, she wanted to be more active. That’s when it was time to say hello to the hounds.

“They offered me military police K9, and it was like, ‘ok where do I sign?’ From that point on, I was a dog handler,” she said.

She would first go to Lackland Air Force Base for patrol and drug dog school. Then it was off to Ireland as part of the security force with her drug dog

“We inspected the barracks, we inspected vehicles, we inspected just about anything they’d let us inspect,” she said.

She would then travel to Japan, and come back to the states at Naval Air Station Miramar in charge of the kennel.

“I had five dog teams. I was responsible for all their scheduling, their training. While I was there, we developed a tracking dog program for lost kids. It was the first tracking dog program in the Navy,” she said. “I was never on a ship. 20 years in the Navy I was never on a ship.”

That’s because she was stationed at the bases with the K9s, checking the ships as they came in.

“They’d actually take us out on a tug boat and shimmy us up the rope ladder and have the dogs search the ship as it came into port,” she said.

As much as she enjoyed the pooches’ presence, it was hard to form long-lasting relationships.

“In the military, the dog stays at the base [and] the handlers move. That’s because the base may require a certain type of dog,” she said. “When you got assigned there, you wouldn’t know what you were going to get, you just got what you got. If you got a drug dog, you didn’t get off that dog unless there were really extreme circumstances. There was one point when I was at Miramar that I was short of handlers, and I was actually handling three different dogs myself until new people came in.”

Carol would continue to move up the ranks and was assigned as Chief of Police. She would retire out of Concord Naval Weapons Station as an E-7.

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