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Tinker AFB honors retiring military dogs

OKLA. CITY — These military working dogs served the nation with distinction and honor at Tinker Air Force Base:

  • Arras, a German shepherd born Aug. 26, 2006, was assigned to Tinker on Dec. 10, 2008, the start of his military career. Arras was deployed in support of Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan and Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. He used his keen detection ability to locate explosives and deter terrorist attacks against the bases. He was selected on three occasions to support the president, vice president, presidential candidates and foreign heads of state. Arras logged 490 hours of search time.
  • Blacky, a German shepherd born on May 11, 2004, was assigned to Tinker on May 6, 2006, the start of his military career. Blacky was deployed four times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed with the 2nd Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Loyalty, Iraq, he used his keen detection ability to locate two weapons caches, a mortar round and a half pound of homemade explosives causing disruption of IED (improvised explosives devices) operations. He prevented the loss of countless soldiers. Blacky was selected 13 times to support the president, vice president, candidates and foreign heads of state. Blacky logged 1,021 hours of search time.
  • Cita, a Belgian Tervuren born on Aug. 10, 2006, was assigned to Tinker on May 1, 2008, the start of her military career. Cita was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While embedded with the 1st Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Hutal, Afghanistan, she used her unmatched detection ability to locate 30,000 pounds of hashish, interrupting $7.2 million in insurgent funding. She logged 488 hours of search time.
  • Sheila, a Belgian Malinois born on Sept. 10, 2006, was assigned to Tinker on July 30, 2008, the start of her military career. Sheila deployed twice to Manas Air Force Base, Kyrgyzstan. She used her keen detection ability to locate explosives and deter terrorist acts. She logged 523 hours of search time. Sheila was selected twice to support the president, vice president, candidates and foreign heads of state.

Tuesday afternoon, the dogs were honored by the 72nd Mission Support Group and 72nd Security Forces Squadron during a retirement ceremony at Tinker. The highlight of the event was the traditional passing of the leash from the previous handlers to their caretakers during retirement.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Galvan, who read “Guardians of the Night.” It begins with the words: “Trust in me my friend, for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath. When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side. Together we will conquer all obstacles and search out those who might wish to harm others.”

After the ceremony, Galvan said he was Cita’s handler for 14 months. He said the experience was both rewarding and challenging. Military working dogs want desperately to please their handlers, Galvan said.

“You’ve got to start making baby steps to get to a goal, an achievement you want to make and that takes a lot of patience,” he said.   

Military dogs spend 10 years of their 13-year lifespan serving their country; humans serve 20, a fourth of their lives, Galvan said. Part of Cita’s job involved pursuing suspects who did not comply with commands to halt, Galvan said.

Just like humans, military dogs suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, heart problems, Galvan said.

During the ceremony, Col. Julie Boit said being a certifying official for working dog teams at Tinker has been one of the most enjoyable parts of being mission support group commander.

“Today is bitter sweet as we retire our outstanding four-legged airmen who have served our Department of Defense and our Air Force so very well,” Boit said.

Three of the dogs are explosives detection dogs, one a narcotics detection dog. Three of them are patrol dogs as well. These are critical abilities for at home and abroad, especially in the areas of IED detection, Boit said.

“Simply put, these dogs save lives, many lives,” she said.

 They are being adopted by airmen with previous handling experience; Arras is already with his newly adopted dad, Boit said. Sheila will return to the Military Working Dog Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas.

Presiding officer Capt. David Temple said in addition to deploying with the Air Force, these dogs have supported Army and Marine components. During the past quarter, they have been tasked with protecting the president a dozen times, Temple said.  

In addition to serving the Department of Defense, these dogs serve the State Department and the Justice Department, Temple said. They deserve to live out their lives as heroes and in peace, he said.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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