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MWD to retire after distinguished career

Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, prepares to train with Buddy, 460th SFS MWD, at the K-9 training yard on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.  Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Clark, his handler since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, prepares to train with Buddy, 460th SFS MWD, at the K-9 training yard on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Clark, his handler since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, stands with Buddy, 460th SFS MWD, on the last day of their deployment in Southwest Asia. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Clark, his handler since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, stands with Buddy, 460th SFS MWD, on the last day of their deployment in Southwest Asia. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Clark, his handler since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Buddy, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, sports a casts after having his toe amputated during a deployment in Southwest Asia. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th SFS MWD handler, his partner since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Buddy, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, sports a casts after having his toe amputated during a deployment in Southwest Asia. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service and will be adopted by Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th SFS MWD handler, his partner since 2011. (Courtesy photo/Released)

Buddy, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, poses with Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th SFS MWD handler, after being adopted by Clark at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Clark/Released)

Buddy, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, poses with Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th SFS MWD handler, after being adopted by Clark at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Buddy is retiring after nearly eight years of military service. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Clark/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A military working dog learns many commands over the course of its career. They learn everything from the basics such as sit and stay to the advanced techniques of sweeping an area and striking a criminal.

Now, Buddy, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, is ready for his newest command -- retire.

"Buddy is just as deserving of a good retirement as any MWD or service member," explained Staff Sgt. Michael Clark, 460th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler and Buddy's partner since 2011. "He's had five deployments and too many temporary duty assignments and training scenarios to count.

"I plan on after his retirement to just letting him be a dog for once. He's a great dog and a best friend. He deserves this, and I won't ask for anything more," he added.

Prior to a career that spanned nearly eight years, Buddy spent the first two years of his life growing up in Ramsdorf, Germany. It was there that he was groomed for the military. In February 2006, Buddy was shipped to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to begin his MWD program. After a grueling 7-month training regiment, the newly certified MWD began his tour of active duty.

"The mission of the MWD is one that is commonly misunderstood," said Staff Sgt. Marque Daniels, 460th SFS kennel master. "The dogs may be out there having fun, but they are constantly putting themselves at risk as entry control point detectors or as the apex of a squad outside the wire. They do a mission that is completely selfless and are a great example for us to embody."

Throughout his time at Buckley, Buddy faithfully served six different handlers. But it was Clark, who spent the last two years with him, with whom he has developed the deepest bond.

"People only see maybe 10 percent of what happens between a dog and his handler," Clark said. "We spend our entire work day playing, training, grooming and learning each other. A K-9 team eventually becomes synced together.

"A handler will share everything with their K-9 partner. It could be a bottle of water, a bed or even a steak," Clark joked.

During his time on active duty, Buddy has faced countless challenges. From his deployments in the deserts of Southwest Asia to his protection of President Barack Obama as a Secret Service augmentee, Buddy has been called on to complete many missions.

"There's no quit in him," Clark emphasized. "Buddy is different from the other MWDs because even though he is the oldest dog in the kennel, he still acts like the young pup on the block."

Despite everything Buddy has accomplished, the mental and physical stress of accomplishing the mission has taken its toll. He has developed severe separation anxiety when away from his handler, causing him to become extremely destructive to his environment. His body has been ravaged by his selfless acts. He now has a cracked spine, arthritis in his shoulder and he had a toe amputated due to a severe fracture he incurred.

"The MWD will never understand how much they helped us and how many of millions of lives they saved," Daniels said.

No matter the issues that plague his K-9 partner, Clark is still bonded to his best friend. They have shared memories and experiences that many cannot fathom. This was one of the determining factors that led to Clark adopting Buddy after the dog's retirement.

With a future away from the mission ahead of him, Buddy can now relax. No longer will he have to stand watch; he leaves that to his old kennel mates.

Buddy only has one military function left to accomplish, and that one begins with "publish the retirement orders."
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