FORT HOOD, Texas -- They are commonly and affectionately known as "man's best friend." But for fiscal year 2016, these dogs earned a much higher honor.
Gen. Robert Abrams, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command presented the Eagle Award to the 226th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dog) here, April 12.
"This is a big deal, it's a really high standard," Abrams began. "We've got some great military working dog detachments across our Army and across Forces Command."
The Eagle Award is an annual award given to FORSCOM's best working dog detachment. The 226th learned in October that they would be the fourth winners of the award. Abrams congratulated the Soldiers, expressing just how little is known about what it takes to the win this coveted award.
"When I presented the award last year, I was at Fort Polk, and very, very few people outside of this community knows what it takes to produce one of these, who is going to be reliable, whatever their specialty is, consistent and be able to perform," Abrams continued. "A lot of people own pets, but they don't understand that these aren't pets."
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Macagg II, kennel master of the 226th MP Det. (MWD), supervises a large working dog facility and prepares dog teams for worldwide contingency operations. However, to fully train a military working dog can be unpredictable at times.
"There are many factors involved," said Macagg. "Like children, dogs learn at different rates and by different teachers."
Macagg proudly accepted the Eagle Award from Abrams, expressing his gratitude from not only himself, but his Soldiers as well.
"Recognition from senior leaders is a big deal for Soldiers," Macagg said. "The accomplishments that the Soldiers and NCOs of the 226th MP Det. were second to none during FY16. Their hard work and tenacity for success made this award happen."
Abrams shared a story in which his father served in Vietnam. He stated that at the time, his father's unit had a specialized search dog who contracted a blood disease and they were not allowed to bring the dog back to the states.
"As a lifelong dog lover and dog owner, he couldn't stand having to put these dogs down, because that's what we (the U.S. Army) did," Abrams continued. "So we'd use them as long as we could and when we had to retire them, we'd put them down."
The general told the Soldiers that he and his Family adopted a specialized search dog approximately 18 months ago. Named "Ace," the dog is nine years old and has served two combat tours, saving many lives prior to his "retirement."
"He's got a special place in our hearts," Abrams said.
The FORSCOM commanding general concluded by thanking the Soldiers for their service and reminding them of the importance of the military working dogs and that there are no "days off" when it comes to training them.
"I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your service," Abrams said. "What you guys do is really important. It requires amazing discipline on your parts. It's a 24/7 investment. You don't go home on Fridays and somebody else magically shows up to take care of the dogs on the weekends. But I have complete confidence if we send a dog from this detachment, that they're going to be 'on it.' So you guys have a lot to be proud of."