Local

March 7, 2014

From detection to relaxation

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Springman, 355th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, plays with Dexter, a retired MWD. Springman was Dexter’s last handler before he retired Feb. 19. 

Dexter, a 355th Security Force Squadron MWD, retired due to a medical condition after more than three years of honorable service.

Dexter, a 5- year-old German Shepard, entered the U.S. Air Force at the age of two on Oct. 29, 2009, at Lackland AFB, Texas where he attended Military Working Dog School. On March 11, 2010, he became fully certified on patrol & explosive detection, making him a dual-purpose dog. Dexter began his career at D-M April 9, 2010.

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Springman, 355th SFS MWD handler, whom he deployed with once, was his last handler.

“Deploying helped Dexter and myself grow and bond because it was just the two of us,” Springman said. “He solely looked to me for everything. I was always the one who fed him every morning and every evening, took him to go to the bathroom, groomed him and bathed him. Also, when we were deployed, he lived in my room with me, so we literally spent 24 hours a day together.”

Dexter is credited with protecting over $2 billion in assets and 37,000 personnel during his deployments.

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Springman, 355th Security Forces Squadron, military working dog handler, accepts a certificate of meritorious service on behalf of Dexter, 5-years-old, 355th SFS military working dog, from Maj. Douglas Whitehead, 355th SFS commander, during his retirement ceremony here Feb. 19. Dexter has served as a patrol and explosive detection dog since joining the AF in October 2009.

During pre-deployment training, it was identified that Dexter was unable to properly regulate his body temperature, Springman said. His body temperature would rise quickly through short periods of work and return to normal after moderate periods of rest. Although this was discovered before deploying, the team was still able to deploy because they were allowed to work night shift. Once they returned, Dexter was deemed undeployable and the retirement process began.

“MWDs are also considered Airmen,” said Maj. Douglas Whitehead, 355th SFS commander. “A retirement ceremony is just as appropriate for our canines as it is for Airmen who serves faithfully all the up until he is eligible to retire. It’s a thrill where I actually get to do a retirement ceremony for an MWD, because unfortunately, more often than not, I am doing a memorial service for one of them.”

Retiring MWDs is a long process. Since Dexter’s reason for disposition was medical, the local military vet documented his condition and then steps were taken to try to condition Dexter to overcome his body’s limitations. His records were then sent to various agencies for final discharge approval. This process took approximately five months before Dexter was able to leave honorably.

Dexter didn’t go far.

In October 2000, Title 10 United States Code was amended by the House of Representatives. It allows the adoption of MWDs by law enforcement agencies, former handlers, and other persons capable of providing care for these service members. Springman adopted Dexter into her family, where she continues to provide him loving care.

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Springman, 355th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and retired military working dog, Dexter, 5-years-old, pose for a photo after his retirement ceremony. Now that Dexter is a retired service member, he has been approved to reside with Springman as a member of her family.

“He worked so fearlessly, diligently and all for the sake of pleasing me,” Springman said. “These dogs don’t understand the dangers behind their duties as MWDs, or the danger they put themselves in by working for us and protecting us, but to them it doesn’t matter. They just want to hear ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ from their mom or dad and to play with their toys when they find the contraband they were trained to detect. To adopt Dexter is the absolute least I could do for him, out of everything he’s done for me without question, I can at least give him a bed to sleep in and all the toys and treats he could ever want.”

Dexter will have no problem fitting into his new household. He will not only spend his time with Springfield, but a former MWD and a Chihuahua as well.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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