By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 7, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 7, 2014) -- The 6th Military Police detachment welcomed a deployed Soldier and his four-legged partner home with a police escort and applause at a small ceremony Aug. 4 at the kennels.
Unit members lined the sidewalk at the new kennels to show appreciation of the efforts of Staff Sgt. Jason Villafane and military working dog, Joep.
"He represented our unit well and Fort Rucker well. Everyone here is very proud of the work he has done, and we are all excited he has returned," said Lt. Col. Romeo Macalintal, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment commander. "This is a great way to meet a Soldier -- his homecoming from doing our nation's business overseas. Looking for explosives isn't something that most people would volunteer to do. On behalf of the unit, I am very happy to see you back."
Villafane said he was not expecting such a homecoming.
"K-9 teams usually leave and return in the early morning or night, so this is amazing to see. Thank you so much for supporting me and my Family while I was gone," he said. "I am glad to be a part of this command."
This was the staff sergeant's third deployment, which he volunteered for. He was gone for 11 months and three days to Afghanistan.
His and Joep's mission was to look for explosives and support the Soldiers in the unit.
"We help keep them safe, and units love their K-9 support," he said.
Villafane said it was a challenging mission to ensure that the job was always complete and that he cleared the way for his unit so they could all return together.
"I am so happy that I helped get all of the Soldiers back home safely. That is the most rewarding thing of all, that I did my part to bring everyone back safely."
This was Joep's first deployment, but the 4-year-old Belgian Malinois did an excellent job, claimed his handler, who said he was more than happy to be home.
"I have been looking forward to this day for weeks now. It's good to be back on friendly soil after being around so much turmoil," he said, adding that he can't wait to spend some simple, quality time with his Family.
His peers and superiors alike said that Villafane and Joep were the right team for the right mission.
"He is an excellent dog handler. Out of all the dog teams we have, him and Joep are the best match," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Hastings, 906th Military Working Dog Detachment. "His tactical and technical knowledge made him perfect for what he did overseas. He did some great stuff while he was over there."