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Hill Air Force Base • To a chorus of barks and applause, five military working dogs were recognized for more than 40 years of combined service Friday afternoon.
Four dogs, Bandy, Allan, Liska and Arek all German shepherds received their formal certificates of retirement, while one, Marco, was remembered in a memorial service that included a gun salute and playing of taps. The dogs were retired because they no longer met established criteria in bomb and drug sniffing tests.
Tim McCarty, commander of the 75th Air Base Security Force Squadron at Hill, presented the dogs' handlers with certificates before a crowd of military personnel, families and local authorities at the base's Memorial Park.
"We know for certain because of these dogs 28 servicemen are alive," McCarty said. "A convoy didn't go past a certain point because a dog sniffed out a bomb. That's something the general public doesn't understand sometimes."
The oldest dog, Bandy, was born in 2000 and served mostly with the border patrol in El Paso, Texas. Bandy is credited with helping to confiscate more than 4.5 tons of marijuana in his 10-year career.
Allan, born in 2001, served overseas in multiple countries, including two tours in Iraq. He logged 2,934 hours sniffing for bombs and protecting foreign dignitaries, including U.S. presidents and vice presidents.
Liska, born in 2002, also served in Iraq and Afghanistan among other Middle Eastern countries. She logged nearly 1,800 hours identifying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and hidden weapons caches.
Perhaps the most decorated military service dog is 9-year-old Arek.
He received the Combat Order of the Spur for his service in Iraq.
Arek discovered two IEDs and found three enemy weapons caches.
"It blows your mind when you see them in an actual war zone, sniffing bombs," McCarty said.
The ceremony concluded with a three-gun salute for late military dog Marco. Marco served on the border patrol in El Paso and helped confiscate more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana.
All four retired service dogs have found homes with their previous handlers or other families.