Not-so-typical meritorious service recipient retires

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
He's described as goofy, a large teddy bear and even a little bit clumsy. Retired Military Working Dog Bonno arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base in July 2007 and officially retired from active duty Nov. 12.

Born in 2005 from a breeder, Bonno was chosen as one of the brave dogs to serve the nation based on his advanced knowledge and skill. He attended Dog Training School at Joint-Base San Antonio Lackland, Texas, for approximately a year-and-a-half and was trained by the 341st Training Squadron as a detection and patrol dog.

The first Air Force sentry dog school was activated at Showa Air Station, Japan, in 1952. The Sentry Dog Training Branch of the Department of Security Police Training was established at JBSA Lackland in October 1958. To combat the growing use of marijuana and other drugs in Southeast Asia, a drug detection course was added in January 1971 to the MWD program. Based on the programs merit and success, the marijuana detector dog program expanded introducing cocaine, hashish and heroin to the program to broaden the dog's capabilities. In 1971, the Air Force began training dogs to detect explosives.

The 341st TRS provides trained military working dogs for use in patrol, drug and explosive detection and specialized mission functions for the Department of Defense, as well as other government agencies. The squadron conducts operational training of MWD handlers and supervisors while sustaining a program through logistical support, veterinary care and research and development for security efforts worldwide.

"The trainers at JBSA Lackland train dogs on how to detect various types of odors, whether it is a narcotic-related odor or an explosive-related odor," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Shy, 92nd Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. "Once each dog completes the training, the canines receive certification and are assigned to a home station. MWDs are assigned one station and will remain there the entirety of their career."

Bonno was chosen to be sent to Fairchild and has rotated through 12 different handlers since arriving here just over eight years ago. The average amount of handlers for a dog is thought to be around six, added Shy, Bonno's last handler.

"Bonno was easy to work with," said Shy. "Back in the day he was a pretty wild boy, that ended quickly though. Now he's pretty goofy."

Shy was Bonno's handler for the last six months of Bonno's career and was the narrator to the historical retirement held for Bonno and another MWD, Helena, on Nov. 12.

Shy smiles as he recalls a memory of Bonno and the goofy boy that Bonno has become with age.

"We were participating in a detection exercise where the dogs are instructed to search out and find aids hidden within a building," began Shy. "I hupped him, instructing him to search a picture frame on a glass case that stood approximately six feet tall. I remember Bonno coming down on his right side, nudging the case in the process and sending the case crashing to the ground where it shattered into hundreds of pieces. We were all staring at the shards of glass all over the floor when we turned around to find Bonno sitting facing a door. He had found an aid and completely ignored the mess he had just made. He had complete disregard for what had just happened."

During Bonno's career, he dedicated approximately 213 hours of narcotic inspections, strictly enforcing the Air Force's zero-tolerance drug policy. Additionally, he executed more than 2,500 random antiterrorism measures, safeguarding 26,000 military and civilian personnel in Air Mobility Command and completed 572 sweeps, supporting Strategic Command objectives. Bonno also participated in four deployments, including a tour in Afghanistan and multiple tours in the United Arab Emirates.

During the retirement ceremony held Nov. 12, MWD Bonno was awarded a certificate of Meritorious Service and also received a letter of appreciation from Maj. Kevin McMahon, 92nd SFS commander. 

"MWD Bonno has had an amazing career both here at Fairchild and at deployed locations," said Master Sgt. Brandon Tillman, 92nd SFS MWD kennel master. "His ability to locate contraband has been essential to the health, morale and welfare of his fellow Airmen."

During the retirement ceremony, the passing of the leash is a final act that symbolizes a MWD's transition from active duty to retirement. Bonno was adopted by Tech. Sgt. Levi Wilson, 92nd SFS flight sergeant.

The majority of dogs that are available for adoption at JBSA Lackland are young dogs that failed to meet training standards. Older dogs, like Bonno, have completed their service and are retired based on age and medical complications. Priority is given first to civilian law enforcement agencies, then to prior handlers and finally to the general public.

(Some information in this article was provided by the 341st Training Squadron)