Fort Rucker honors fallen working dog
August 2, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 2, 2012) -- A muster call was performed at the Military Working Dog Kennels, and a brief silence fell as military working dog Nina's name was called during a memorial July 27.
Nina, a 4-year-old German Shepard, was deployed with her handler, Sgt. Daniel M. Wilker, 6th Military Police Detachment K9 Section, to Afghanistan where she was killed in the line of duty.
During the memorial, a commemorative plaque was presented in remembrance of the military working dog, a video depicting pictures of the dog and her handler during training and deployment was shown and a salute to the fallen dog's kennel was performed.
"Nina was an awesome dog and everyone in the unit loved her," said Wilker. "She wanted to go everywhere, see everything and meet everybody. She was attached to my hip."
Nina was assigned to Wilker in July of 2011 and deployed with her handler in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She conducted over 75 missions, confirmed one improvised explosive device and found two weapons caches, Wilker said.
"Nina saved many lives and fought for our freedom every day," he said. "[She] worked hard every day and loved her job."
Wilker said he first noticed his bond with Nina when the dog bit him during a training exercise.
"She had bitten me on accident … and I went down on the ground when a handler came and took her off me," he said. "She laid down right next to me and had this look on her face like, 'What did I just do?' Right then I knew this dog was awesome and I loved her."
He went on to describe the bond between the military working dogs and their handlers as "unique" and "indescribable," which Staff Sgt. Donald Miller, training NCO for the 6th MP detachment K9 section, agreed with.
"It's a very strong bond and the dogs are very protective of their handlers," he said, adding that it's part of the dog's daily training to reinforce that protective instinct.
"There were only a few of us [at the kennels] that got to work with [Nina] before she was deployed," said Miller. "She was pretty awesome … and our only female dog in the kennel, so it is pretty sad that she's gone. You couldn't ask for a sweeter dog.
"She did her job [amazingly]," he continued. "When you gave her an attack command she did it without hesitation, and then she would flip the script and be the sweetest dog and start loving on you."
All of the dogs at the Fort Rucker Military Working Dog Kennels are highly trained and begin their training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, said the training NCO.
"That's where they go through their basic training and learn all their basic obedience and detection stuff," he said.
The dog's training is split into two phases: Phase 1 is the patrol side, which includes building search, field scouting and basic obedience; and Phase 2 is the detection side, which includes either narcotics or explosive detection, he said.
"The dogs will only be trained for detection in one type of scent," said Miller. "There isn't a dog out there that is trained in narcotics and explosives."