by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In 2008, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pospischil, 21st Security Forces Squadron, and his partner were deployed together to Baghdad to provide explosive detection for an Army unit.
Work like that makes partners close, Sergeant Pospischil said. The two were inseparable, they even bunked together. He didn’t expect it, but Sergeant Pospischil formed a strong bond with his partner. The two deployed together again to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, in 2010 and Sergeant Pospischil was always impressed by his partner’s hard-working attitude.
In January, Sergeant Pospischil adopted his partner of four years – Wodan, a military working dog who served seven years in the United States Air Force.
“He is very much a people person,” Sergeant Pospischil said.
Adopting a military working dog is a lengthy process, said Maj. Joseph Musacchia, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander. The Department of Defense wants to ensure that the golden years of the four-legged warriors are the best they can be. All dogs and those wishing to adopt the dogs are carefully screened, he said. All adoptions, no matter where the military working dog is stationed, are completed through the official Military Working Dog Adoption Program at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.
To be eligible for adoption, a dog must be declared excess to the needs of the Department of Defense. Some dogs get out of the service if they have failed to meet training standards, some retire because of their age and some are medically retired due to injury or sickness that keeps them from performing the mission.
In 2010, Wodan, a 95-pound German shepherd, started having trouble jumping and even walking, Sergeant Pospischil said. He was diagnosed by his veterinarian with neurological issues. It was time to retire, Sergeant Pospischil said. The 21st SFS hosted Wodan’s retirement ceremony in June 2010, but his official retirement and fate were still to be determined.
Wodan was examined by a veterinarian. He was placed, and video-taped, in a variety of scenarios to determine his temperament. A key consideration is that the former working dog does not respond as a threat to people or other animals when faced with unique circumstances of civilian life; such as a good-natured wrestling match between the new owner and a friend, Major Musacchia said.
All of Wodan’s medical records were sent to Lackland, where a disposition board reviewed the documents. Wodan was deemed eligible to retire Jan. 9.
“It’s like a Green Beret who is now 80,” Major Musacchia said. “Yes, he is trained as a Green Beret, but he’s not going to take anyone down. Wodan does not pose a threat to the general public.”
Wodan, who is now 10-years-old, joined the Air Force in September 2003. He was two-years-old when he went to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School to train in patrol and detection work with the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland AFB.
Wodan was stationed at Peterson Air Force Base and has been deployed three times since becoming a MWD. He was partnered with Sergeant Pospischil in 2007. Throughout his military career, Wodan detected scores of bombs, located various weapon caches and searched countless vehicles, Sergeant Pospischil said.
The Robby Law, enacted in 2000, permits military working dogs to be adopted after their careers in active duty. Law enforcement or former dog handlers have first option to adopt military working dogs and more than 90 percent of former military working dogs are adopted by their handlers, according to the 432st Training Squadron at Lackland AFB. Still, Sergeant Pospischil had to answer detailed questions about his personal life, home and yard environment, and whether he was willing to assume all medical bills for Wodan.
The disposition board saw what Sergeant Pospischil has known for years: they were a good match.
Wodan is now at the Pospischil home. He made friends with Sergeant Pospischil’s Great Dane and generally likes to relax around the house. He was recently diagnosed with some serious health issues. His time is short now, Sergeant Pospischil said.
“The reason I wanted to adopt him is because he and I have been together almost four years,” Sergeant Pospischil said. “He was my first working dog. To me, he trained me.”
l The process to adopt a Military Working Dog begins with an application request. The request should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
l There is currently a female Belgian Malinois former military working dog available for adoption. She has some health problems. Visit http://www.lackland.af.mil/units/341stmwd/index.aspwebsite, for details.
l The wait to adopt a former military working dog can be more than a year. There are typically 300 to 400 applications on file.