ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — In September 2001 a German Sheppard puppy named “Benjo” was selected to be a military working dog.
On September 11, 2003, Benjo arrived at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and was put through the rigorous process to become a military working dog. Although few make it, Benjo succeeded.
After 10 months of training, he was flown to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
The first entry in his military working dog records read: “22 Jul 04, MWD arrived at airport. MWD was calm the entire trip back to base”.
Throughout Benjo’s career, he distinguished himself by meritorious service as a patrol and explosive detector dog, assigned to the 3rd Security Forces Squadron. He provided over 450 hours of garrison counter-explosive searches. He also provided support to the United States Secret Service and State Department Security Division for US and foreign national dignitaries, including Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of Treasury, Timothy F. Geithner and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Norton A. Schwartz.
While deployed in 2006 and 2007, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Benjo and his handler were subjected to small arms and sniper fire on three occasions, surviving three detonated improvised explosive devices, more than 15 rocket attacks, and being within 100 feet of a detonated mortar. Benjo is credited with locating 15 weapon caches including 70 pounds of TNT and 98 mortars. His exceptional performance and training saved the lives of coalition personnel.
In June 2007, MWD Benjo was diagnosed with unilateral blindness, which impairs his night vision. He remained on day shift until May 2009, when his assigned handler separated from the Air Force.
Benjo was maintained by kennel staff until his retirement. His previous handlers Staff Sgt. Christopher Jones and Tech. Sgt. Chad Eagan were unable to adopt him.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Lugar, a handler assigned to the section, agreed to foster Benjo and acclimate him to civilian life.
When Michael Stevenson, a Chenega guard, was informed of Benjo’s situation he eagerly added his name to the adoption list. Once Stevenson got word he would be able to adopt Benjo, he quickly filed the adoption paperwork. After numerous meetings and introductions Stevenson assumed full ownership of Benjo after his retirement ceremony Nov. 12, 2009.
The ceremony was small and humble which suited Benjo’s character. Lt. Col. Briar 3 SFS/CC and his family, as well as Tech. Sgt Robert Black/3SFS/NCOIC, MWD Section, Staff Sgt. Kurt Lugar/3SFS/MWD Handler and Gary Morgan/3SFS/Kennel attendant, witnessed Benjo’s adoption.
Kennel master, Black was choked up as he read the poem “Guardians of the Night”. Black stated, “It’s always bitter sweet when we say goodbye to, essentially a family member. You get accustomed to seeing him daily and now the kennel he once occupied is vacant, but I know the Stevenson’s will take great care of partner, he deserves it”.
Benjo is now home, playing with the Stevenson’s two dachshunds and enjoying his golden years. When Stevenson was asked why he was interested in adopting a military working dog he replied, “Being retired military, we are very honored to give Benjo a good home and peaceful surroundings”.
Even though Benjo can’t talk, his actions convey that he is one happy (Retired) Military Working Dog.
Benjo ended his career much like he started it his last entry in his dog records reads: “MWD departed kennels. MWD was calm the entire trip back home”.