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Face of Defense: Partners in Life, Partners in Crime Fighting

When it comes to their careers, Marine Corps Cpls. Alex and Andres Lopez are quick to say they're blessed: 

They are a dual-military couple who are assigned to the same place and the same unit.  

And because of the jobs they pursued — both are military working dog handlers — they each have an additional partner at work who always has their back.  

The Lopezes sat down to talk with us a bit about their marriage and their four-legged partners.

Marine Corps Cpls. Alex and Andres Lopez
Job Title: Military working dog handlers
Hometowns: Lenore, Idaho & El Paso, Texas
Stationed: Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Unit: Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Canine Partners: Roli, explosives detection and patrol dog & Bruno, narcotics detection and patrol dog

How did you meet?  

Andres: We met back in MP [military police] school. I'm a very driven individual. One of my main goals was to graduate class leader from beginning to end, which I ended up accomplishing. But in that I was able to meet somebody who had the same kind of expectations for herself — physically, mentally, spiritually. She wanted to be the best she could be. ... I wanted to be the top and there she was just challenging me through it all, and I ended up falling in love with her.  

A Marine in a field holding a dog on a leash with one hand reaches out to another Marine with the other; that Marine also extends an arm.
Training Scenario
Marine Corps Cpls. Andres Lopez, left, and Alex Lopez pretend to exchange information while training Bruno at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1121

Alex: The more class progressed, and we spent more time together I saw a challenge that could help push me to actually achieve my goals and somebody that would make it fun and enjoyable.  

Andres: At the beginning she didn't want anything to do with me. She's like, 'Who is this bossy guy?' And then I think she kind of fell for like, I wasn't just the bossy guy. I had meaning behind everything I wanted to do. 

Once you became serious, were you concerned about how you'd make it work as a dual-military couple in the same career field?  

Andres: You can always hear, 'Oh when it comes to marriage or couples, the Marine Corps is going to put their needs before yours. But in our experience, the Marine Corps put us first. So, we graduated from the MP schoolhouse. I went straight to Lackland [Texas] to become a dog handler, and she came here to Camp Lejeune. We ended up getting married while I was in Lackland. I was already getting orders to Arizona. I was supposed to go to Yuma. The Marine Corps changed my orders like a week before I was supposed to go to Yuma to go to Camp Lejeune. 

We're super professional with each other at work. And we're such a good set of individuals inside our kennels. Everybody gets along so well and everybody's talking and learning from each other, so it's never like it's us two and everyone else. 
A Marine walks with a military working dog on a leash in a field, both leaning forward.
Ready Roli
Marine Corps Cpl. Alex Lopez conducts a mock patrol with military working dog Roli at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1322
A military working dog runs up stairs on a white, triangular-shaped obstacle as a Marine runs beside him.
Going Up
Marine Corps Cpl. Andres Lopez runs his partner Bruno through a military working dog obstacle course at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1242

Alex: Everybody knows that we're married, but as far as workwise, they know I'm Cpl. Lopez with an explosive detection dog; he's Cpl. Lopez with a narcotics detection dog. As far as interacting and keeping it professional and finding that balance it just kind of flows because we all know our jobs; we all know what's expected of us.   

What do each of you like about being a dog handler?  

Alex: It's a self-reflection of who you are and the hard work you put into it. Every day, when you go in and see him, if you're having a bad day, he always cheers you up. And then if he performs fantastic, it's just a reflection of the time you've put into him and then he pays it back to you by doing fantastic and it's a never-ending cycle.   

A dog sits in a field staring up longingly at a red toy a Marine holds up with one hand, while holding the dog's leash with the other.
Longing Look
Marine Corps Cpl. Andres Lopez holds a training toy in front of Bruno at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1216
A Marine kneels and pats a the head of a dog whose tongue hangs out of his open mouth.
Rewarding Roli
Marine Corps Cpl. Alex Lopez rewards her canine partner, Roli, for his good work at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1353
A Marine in camouflage kneels in a field next to a sitting military working dog.
Partner Photo
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Alex Lopez, a military working dog handler, poses with her canine partner Roli at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 28, 2023.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Loriann Dauscher
VIRIN: 230728-M-GV552-1297V
Andres: You're working with your dog all this time, and he's making you a better handler. And there's these little moments with your dog. I'd been working building searches just for training, and you get a call and it's actually a building search and he goes in there and he does exactly what he's supposed to do, and he actually finds somebody, which really happened. And the moment he finds someone, I just look at him and I'm so proud of him. And he looks at me like I'm his dad and I look like, 'That's my boy.'  

Do you have any kids at home — human or canine?  

Andres: We do have a four-legged son. His name's Ace. He's an 8-month-old Lab. But for now, he's the only child we have.  

Do you think he gets jealous if he can smell the other dogs on you? 

Andres: I think Ace is a lover, so when he smells the dogs — because I know he does — he's not like, 'Who's this (suspiciously)?' It's more like, 'Who's THIS (excitedly)??' 

Alex: Like, do we have another friend for him? 

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. Do either of you come from a military family?  

Alex: My grandpa and my great grandpa were both in the Army and my uncle served in the Air Force.  

Andres: My family wasn't so oriented with the military but when we go back and look at it, I see that my grandpa served in the Navy. I do have another grandfather from my mom's side, he was in the Army. Right now, my little brother is a machine gunner up in Pendleton. That's a big inspiration to me. I also have a cousin, he's in the Coast Guard doing almost the same job as me. 

When you're not on the job, what do you like to do?

Alex: We do everything imaginable from hiking, fishing, camping, bicycling, running — everything. We're always on the move; we always want to explore what's out there.

Andres: Staying physically fit is not just because we're in the Marine Corps anymore. The Marine Corps made that a lifestyle for us. ... We're not a couch potato couple. And going to church — that's a big one too. That's helped us out a lot. 

Any words of wisdom for other military couples, or couples that work together? 

Andres: You have to be able to adapt and balance. And you have to go for what you want. Her being in the kennels and me being in the kennels, it wasn't because we were quiet, and we just sat back.  

Alex: We had to prove ourselves.

Watch the Lopezes and their canine partners at work:


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