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With 99K acres to patrol, Vandenberg AFB uses horses to help keep watch

Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 13, 2019

Vandenberg Air Force Base is home to the only military mounted patrol in the entire Department of Defense.

KSBY got an inside look at the unit to learn more about what makes it so unique.

For Conservation Patrolman Michael Terrazas, getting a spot on the mounted patrol at Vandenberg Air Force Base felt like luck.

“It’s a pretty great feeling to think I’m 23-years-old and I have like the best job ever. We get hired out of a 500 man security forces squadron and there’s six positions for this and it’s pretty rare when one opens up,” Terrazas said.

Terrazas and his unit are tasked with helping to patrol the 99,000 acres that make up the base. Much of it is terrain inaccessible by car.

“We look for people trespassing on base, any illegal activity that could be going on. Most of the area we have on base isn’t accessible through vehicle and most of it’s undeveloped so people try to come in through these areas and we have horses that can try to find them,” Terrazas explained.

The mounted patrol also keeps watch over Surf Beach, a place where a vehicle would disturb the protected snowy plovers.

“Horses are key because they have a smaller environmental impact on the beaches. We can’t patrol beaches with any sort of vehicles and we have 14 miles of protected plover area and with six patrolmen, it’d just be impossible without the horses,” Terraza said.

Patrols with the horses can last for several hours. The unit checks the hooves of the horses before and after a patrol to make sure they’re not impacted with dirt and rocks to make for a more comfortable ride for the horses. Feeding them treats helps, too.

“They’re used to the work they have to go through. They’re super well-behaved. They know what has to be done and they’re great at what they do,” Terraza said.

Other branches of the military do have horses but those are just for ceremonies and formal events.

All four of the horses in the VAFB mounted patrol come from local ranches. The unit says they try to get in at least one patrol per day.