Military Working Dogs no Longer Military Surplus....

By Curtis M. Hendel

My obsession with the Military Working Dog Program comes directly from my service as a Military Working Dog Handler and Trainer from 1985 till 1991.  In a recent piece I told of the atrocious treatment of the thousands of dogs that served honorably in the Vietnam War and were credited with saving over ten thousand lives.

In my day the treatment was just a bit better, but still terrible.  I was assigned to a base in South Korea that had a large kennel.  In my first four months I worked with two of the older dogs in the kennel.  Both were beyond their years as far as defending the base, but had also served their entire lives on the perimeter while they were in shape to serve.

When the replacement dogs arrived they were placed on quarantine, then moved to the main kennels.  In order to make room in the kennels over twenty dogs had to be moved out, but in that era they were “put down”, not retired.  The process was humane, but robbed these four-legged heroes of years of rest and relaxation that they had earned walking miles every night protecting the base perimeter.

Today, via “The Dawgs Project” and the honorable J.M. Hemp comes the story of Maxo and Chrach, two German Shepherds from Luke AFB in Arizona.  Both were certified in Patrol work and Maxo was also a Narcotics Detection Dog and Chrach was an Explosive Detection Dog.  They both served the United States Air Force, their base, and their and their handlers honorably.  Both were also retired on Wednesday, April 7th, 2017 in a very nice ceremony.

Now I will eat my crow when the time comes, and the retiring of our four-legged partners came in the era of William Jefferson Clinton.  President Clinton signed in to law the act that allowed older Military Working Dogs to be retired and adopted by ex handlers or other qualified personnel.  This changed the military perception that old and excess Military Working Dogs were to be considered surplus military equipment.

Maxo and Chrach are two great examples of the law working.  These two dogs had helped to protect over 65,000 military personnel and 138 aircraft at Luke AFB worth in excess of $3.5 billion.  Each had done temporary duty in support of the President and Vice President, the Secret Service and other agencies.

Patrol/Explosives Detection Dog Chrach had deployed to Kuwait twice and Afghanistan twice.  He had even been awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge.  Back in 1991, after the Gulf War, a Navy Bomb Dog was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded on shards of metal and still continuing to search for several hours in hundred-degree heat to clear the airport in Kuwait City.  At the time many non-K9 handlers protested the award of the Purple Heart to a dog, but the award stood.

As a guy that had his first two dogs euthanized because they were excess equipment I am very thankful that things have changed for the better.  Military Working Dogs save lives almost every day.  They serve, work harder than humans, and run to the sound of gunfire as determined as any Special Operations troop to eliminate any and all threats.  They also bleed and die in their service to their two-legged partners.

So enjoy your retirement Maxo and Chrach!  Live out your days in luxury as you have earned them.  And for my three dogs in the field; Rex C058, Thor (the wonder dog) P247, and my boy, Ero 245J, I am sorry that I couldn’t bring you home to retire.  You are forever in my heart…