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Long-serving Air Force dog at Mountain Home AFB gets new digs, gigs

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Tanja at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, in January 2013. Wilson was Tanja's handler for more than a year and deployed with her.

ELMORE, Idaho — She deployed to war zones five times.

She helped saved lives at least three times.

The 13-year-old Belgian malinois named Tanja served her country well — she was longest-serving of current military canines — but the top brass decided it was time to let the old dog retire to the quiet life.

Airmen at Mountain Home Air Force Base, where Tanja was based her entire career, paid tribute to the dog in a ceremony at the base Thursday morning.

Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly, 366th Security Forces Squadron, one of six different handlers who worked with Tanja over her 11 years of service, adopted the dog, who loves to play tug-of-war. “She’s so sweet and caring,” Kelly said. “She’s a motherly type. ... She’s oriented toward people.”

What will civilian life look like for her?

A bed of her own, many squeaky toys and long walks. “She likes chasing rabbits and squirrels,” Kelly said.

How many military dogs are at Mountain Home?

Several, although officials declined to offer a specific number. Dogs are assigned to a base; they live out their lives at that base. The dogs are housed in kennels.

Where did Tanja come from?

Military dogs are acquired from different places. Tanja was purchased from a vendor in Norway.

What was her job?

Tanja was trained to detect narcotics and explosives, and certified to assist on patrol.

One example where Tanja helped protect lives?

On one deployment, she found an explosive devices inside “a third-country national vehicle,” U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th Security Forces Squadron wrote for the base website. When the vehicle was searched, “we found stolen classified documents hidden inside. In a round-about way she was able to alert us of potential explosives and keep extremely valuable classified information from being stolen.”
 

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