Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Airman's best friend

by Senior Airman Aubrey White
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/27/2013 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- He was bred to stand on the front lines and help protect service members. He worked day-in and day-out to detect and warn them of the existence of explosives. For the last 10 years, he's been an Airman's best friend.

Charlie, a 10-year-old German Shepherd Military Working Dog assigned to the 4th Security Forces Squadron, retired from active duty Aug. 23, 2013.

At the ceremony, he was honored for meritorious service by several members of Team Seymour and special guest, Maj. Gen. Jake Polumbo, 9th Air Force commander.

"MWD Charlie ensured the protection of United States assets and personnel by providing superior explosives detection capabilities while inside and outside the wire," said Maj. Troy Jones, 4th SFS commander. "Charlie gave his all for the mission and served flawlessly."

Charlie's handler, Senior Airman Rayshawn Taylor, 4th SFS MWD handler, reflected on the year-and-a-half he spent with the dog.

"When I first met Charlie, I thought he was pretty amazing," Taylor said. "Looking through his records, I saw that he deployed more than seven times and it was incredible to know I was going to work with a dog that was very experienced; it made me trust him a lot more. He's a veteran to this game and I didn't have anything to worry about."

Like many of his counterparts, Charlie has had to stare adversity in the face at certain points in his career.

During a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, Charlie and his then handler, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Seekell, 4th SFS MWD trainer, were injured when they stepped on an improvised explosive device. Seekell earned a Purple Heart and Charlie earned a commemorative Purple Heart. Service animals are not eligible for military decorations.

Although the duo had a close bond before the incident, the experience they endured brought them even closer, enough for Seekell to adopt him after he's officially released from the Air Force.
"Charlie was the last dog I handled, or probably will ever handle in my career. He's my buddy; my partner," Seekell said. "He has done amazing things for the Air Force. He represents the MWD program as good as any dog ever could and I'm really looking forward to being able to bring him home, let him live a dog's life, be around the family and be lazy if he wants. If anyone deserves it, it's him and even though he's old and has been around the block a few times, I know that if I ever needed him to come back tomorrow, he'd be ready and he'd do it for me."

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