Leading Aircraftman Nicholas Catling is building a special relationship with his Belgian malinois military working dog Ben.

The pair was awarded the Most Improved Team of Basic Military Working Dog Handler Course 016 at the Royal Australian Air Force Security and Fire School, RAAF Base Amberley, in November.

Leading Aircraftman Catling said he was surprised and honoured to receive the award.

“The bonding we enjoyed and the most-improved award were not all my doing,” Leading Aircraftman Catling said.

“I was surprised and happy that I was chosen to receive the Most Improved Dog Handler award and grateful that our hard work – Ben’s and mine - was recognised.

“We’re only at the early stages after the course and my goal in the coming months is for us to progress with Ben so that we can excel in our role and we’re both fully deployable.”

Leading Aircraftman Catling, 20, grew up in Redcliffe on Brisbane’s bayside where he attended St Patrick’s College in Shorncliffe and played as a junior for the Redcliffe Dolphins Rugby League Club.

He joined the Air Force in 2019 after being prompted to investigate career opportunities in Defence by a friend who was joining the Navy.

“None of my family have been in the Defence force, but I looked into what Defence had to offer because of my mate’s experience joining the Navy,” he said.

“I joined RAAF as Air Force security and, when I was posted to Perth, I got to meet a lot of dog handlers and saw what their job entailed so I chose to specialise as a dog handler.

“I grew up with dogs as part of the family. 

“My uncle had many dogs and my mum also kept smaller dogs – I’m definitely not a cat person.

“But what stood out for me was the way dog handlers not only had to uphold and take responsibility for themselves, but also for their dogs, who they had to train and maintain every day.

“Bonding with your dog isn’t something that happens overnight and, although Ben and I started bonding on the course, I’m very new to the role and that’s something we’ll be working on now at No. 3 Security Forces Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce.”

To find out more about a career in Defence, visit www.defencejobs.gov.au.