Two Kirtland AFB military dogs retire to civilian life
By RICK NATHANSON | Albuquerque Journal | Published: March 3, 2020
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — With a certificate of appreciation signed by the president of the United States, and an Air Force Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service, two “airmen,” with eight legs between them, formally retired from duty at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The “last call” for Military Working Dogs Mex and Saxo on Monday, means the dogs can spend the rest of their lives with their “fur-ever” families — Staff Sgt. Tyler Adams, and Staff Sgt. Edwin Argueta-Hernandez, who worked closely with the animals.
The two human airmen are being reassigned to other bases and will work with new military working dogs, while their former canine partners will remain at ease in their homes and sleep, eat, fetch, and bark as they please.
“These are Airmen, just like us,” Col. David Miller, commander of the 377th Air Base Wing, told those gathered for the ceremony. “They’re part of our service, part of our DNA. Undeniably, they expertly served their country and they’re committed to the same mission we support and defend. And like us when it’s time to move on to the next part of their lives, they look forward to their retirements – so less waking and more belly rubs and pats on the head.”
The retirements come after an impressive canine career.
Mex, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, began his career at KAFB in May 2013 and over the years has worked with six handlers, including Argueta-Hernandez. Saxo, a nearly 9-year-old German Shepherd, began his career at the base in July 2014 and has worked with five handlers, including Adams.
In their combined nearly 13 years of service, the two dogs completed more than 9,700 hours of explosives detection and security patrols.
Mex and Saxo cleared several facilities during credible bomb threats at the base and traveled with their handlers across the country providing explosive detection capability for the United States Secret Service and securing the president, vice president and others in high-level leadership, Miller said.
They also augmented local law enforcement operations, ensuring several event areas were safe for the thousands of people in attendance.
Both dogs are being retired because of health issues with their hips. In addition, Mex recently underwent successful treatment for cancer.
“It was great working with Mex,” said Argueta-Hernandez, who has been reassigned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was a new handler when I got here and he was an experienced dog, so it was more of him teaching me than me teaching him.”
Argueta-Hernandez said he has other dogs in his home, “but they don’t listen to anything you say — and then I’d come to work and this dog literally listens to everything you say.”
Adams, who will be reassigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said working with Saxo was also his first experience with a military working dog. “We came together as a team, and he taught me a lot of things.”
Saxo is “very unique,” he added, and well deserving of his retirement.
“He’s going to get a lot of couch time and toys.”