by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Chaky was a Belgian Malinois military working dog who spent nine years in the U.S. Air Force sniffing out narcotics, searching buildings and keeping stateside and overseas military installations safe. He earned a reputation as “the trainer” for new handlers, always teaching his human partners a thing or two. And, he was a great listener who never talked back.
Chaky died in May from cancer. He was 10.
The 21st Security Forces Squadron held a memorial service June 8 on Peterson AFB to honor their fellow squadron member. His empty kennel and upside down dog bowl on stage symbolized the life of a dog who worked hard to protect his base, his country and his handler.
“He taught me more than I taught him,” said Staff Sgt. Whit Young, 21st SFS, who was partnered with Chaky for the past year. “When we searched a building for narcotics, he would show me exactly where I needed to go. He’d nudge me, letting me know that we had not gone in this room yet.”
The 21st SFS also retired military working dog Wodan, a German Shepherd who served seven years in the Air Force and already has taken to his golden years of lounging and enjoying the affection of friends, said his handler Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pospischil, 21st SFS.
Both dogs deserve recognition for their years of military service and defense of life. When they went in to search a building for bombs, they kept military members from putting their lives in danger.
“These dogs never received medals or any other kind of recognition for their heroic efforts,” said Tech. Sgt. Tony Davis, 21st SFS military working dog trainer. “America has never sufficiently thanked these dogs.”
Chaky was trained at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School, where dogs learn patrol, drugs or explosives detection and specialized mission functions. For two years he performed demonstrations there before he was assigned to the 21st SFS. Sergeant Young was always a “canine groupie” and hung around the dog kennels even before he was sent to school to become a handler. Chaky was his first partner.
Chaky had his retirement papers in when he was diagnosed with cancer. His illness came as a shock to the squadron.
“We were very close,” Sergeant Young said. “He was with me through everything. He listened well.”
Nobody can understand the bond between the human and canine partner, said Maj. Joseph Musacchia, 21st SFS commander. As commander he views the dog and handler as a team and would never consider sending one alone on a mission.
“Over the course of my career I’ve heard people say, ‘just send in the dog,’” Major Musacchia said. “We send in a team. They need to be a good true military dog team.”
In recent years, military working dogs have been allowed to retire, Major Musacchia said. Their dog handlers have the first opportunity to adopt them. Sergeant Pospischil is in the process of adopting Wodan, German Shepherd, whose service included three overseas deployments and eight secret service missions protecting the President of the United States and foreign dignitaries. Wodan’s and Sergeant Pospischil’s last deployment was to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, where the 95-pound dog’s presence served as psychological deterrent on patrol.
Wodan also was credited with an upswing in the team’s morale, Sergeant Pospischil said.
“Wodan has been a teacher, a shrink, and a partner and friend,” Sergeant Pospischil said. “He has helped me through the tough times of deployment and life and he has kept my friends safe.”
Now, Wodan is going to enjoy those years that he missed out on as a house pet, Sergeant Pospischil said.
“He has taken to retirement quite well,” Sergeant Pospischil said. “He didn’t have to train on how to relax.
“I’m looking forward to taking him home and continuing this friendship,” he said.