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A day and 'Ruck March' for military K-9s at NAS Jacksonville

On National K-9 Veterans Day, Petty Officer 1st Class James Jones walks with his dog, Alik, during a Ruck March on March 13, 2020, at Naval Air Station Jacksonville to celebrate the 78th anniversary of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog program.

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By GABRIELLE PARZYGNAT | The Florida Times-Union | Published: March 14, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — Handlers along with their Military Working Dogs and Army veterinary staff members celebrated National K-9 Veterans Day with a "Ruck March" Friday at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

Participants marched 4.5 miles around Perimeter Road, which circles inside the base.

"It is a good way to get out and sweat together while remembering where we came from, some of the dogs we have had in the past and some of our handlers and dogs that have passed on," said Master at Arms 1st Class Kennel Master James Jones, marching with his German shepher, Alik. "Just a good way to get out and celebrate them."

This is the first year NAS Jacksonville has coordinated a march to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog program.

The base partnered with Naval Station Mayport, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and Army veterinary staff.

The Army handles all of the veterinary medicine and first aid for the dogs. Army and Animal Care Spc. Gina Loza marched along with the dogs and handlers.

"I am really glad we are a part of this event because we play such an important role in the dog's lives as far as their well-being and their health, so I am glad they invited us out to this event," Loza said.

Dogs for Defense first started during World War II when civilian owners gave up their dogs for the war effort, according to Navy Public Affairs. On March 13, 1942, the K-9 Corps was established. German shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian sheepdogs, Siberian huskies, collies, Eskimo dogs and malamutes were the only seven breeds accepted. They were trained as messengers, sentries, mine detectors and patrol dogs.

Since World War II, Military Working Dogs have served in every major American conflict, the Navy said. They are vital to military forces across the world providing explosive detection, drug detection and combat tracking. After their military service, the dogs are officially retired and often adopted by their former handlers.

Master at Arms 1st Class and Regional Kennel Master Adam Malatore is in charge of the management and running of the Military Working Dog facilities in the Southeast region. Even though Malatore marched in the event without a dog, he wanted to honor all the K-9 veterans.

"This is a day to honor all the dogs who have fallen, all the handlers and all of the dogs we have left behind in combat zones," Malatore said. "The reason why I participate is because I personally lost friends who were dog handlers, so this is a way for me to keep their memory alive and honor them."

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(c)2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
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Petty Officer 2nd Class Rebecca Flores shows her dog, Chiko, some affection before National K-9 Veterans Day's Ruck March.
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