Military working dogs stamp their place in history
By L. Cunningham, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 02, 2019
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- The Military Working Dog stamp was unveiled as the U.S. Postal Service’s newest stamp during the American Philatelic Society’s 133rd annual convention Aug. 1, 2019, at the Catholic Health Initiatives Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It is my honor to help dedicate the Military Working Dog's Forever Stamp,” said David C. Williams, Postal Service Board of Governors vice chairman. “As a military veteran and former law enforcement officer, I have the greatest appreciation for service dogs and their vital, lifesaving missions.”
The stamp honors dogs who have served in the U.S. armed forces since the U.S. Army created the War Dog Program K-9 Corps and began training man’s best friend in March 1942.
“Military working dogs give their entire lives to the military. They are born into the program, work in it all their life, and many die in it from old age, illness, or injury before they can retire,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Reeves, 55th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “Recognizing their heroic acts is important, as it helps spread awareness about the important role they play in all military operations, and it’s the least we can do for these animals giving their whole life to the military.”
Offutt Air Force Base has six working dogs that on a daily basis are groomed, exercised, trained and conduct patrols with their handlers. With occasional training conducted alongside local law enforcement and other government agencies.
“Whether they are training or in a real world situation, to the dog, they are just playing their master’s game, but in reality, they are fulfilling a role no machine can,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Radey, 55th SFS MWD handler. “They are an analog force in a digital age and will continue to lead the way into the future.”
The mission of MWDs is to deter and detect. Their duties place them in harm’s way every day. They are trained in narcotics, explosives and intruder detection. Whether home or deployed, patrolling the base for intruders or scanning the area for explosives, these teams are getting the job done.
“Not just any canine can be molded into a military working dog. It takes a rare breed of canine to succeed in this special mission set,” said Lt. Col. Michael Cheatham, 55th SFS commander. “Despite extensive efforts to carefully select the best breeds with the strongest pedigrees from around the world, just over 50% of canines successfully pass the Department of Defense Military Working Dogs Training Course.”
During World War I, dogs started out as mascots, sentries, couriers, guard dogs and even Red Cross dogs. Throughout history, some dogs have become distinguished in combat beside their human companions. In World War II, a dog named Chips captured 14 Italian soldiers in one day. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star Medal and even the Purple Heart, but the medals were later rescinded due to policy preventing commendation of animals.
“Military working dogs do not receive any post-service benefits like service members and must rely on non-profit organizations and owner or handler payment to fund their healthcare and medications once they retire,” said Staff Sgt. Seth Kenny, 55th SFS MWD trainer. “A dog doesn’t value a medal on the mantle, a dog values being pain free when they try to walk up the stairs after spending 90% of their life truly giving their all without a second thought.”