Air Force Sgt. Craig Martin and his dog Benny shared a sleeping bag during their tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“We were always together,” he said.
The military dog is retired, but his bond with Martin remains as strong as ever. Benny now lives with his handler, who adopted him in January.
“He earned a spot on the couch. He’s an old man. He likes to chill out, watch the birds, watch the squirrels,” Martin said.
Martin trains dogs for the 628th Security Forces Squadron. On Thursday, a Dutch Shepherd and German Shepherd showed off for the press as part of National Police Week at Joint Base Charleston.
During the exhibition, canines took turns chasing down a mock adversary. Their jaws locked onto a heavily padded man who spun around so quickly that the dogs went airborne. After coming back to Earth, they turned their combatant loose on command.
The dogs’ work also includes sniffing out narcotics and explosives. Overall, they provide an extra level of protection in situations where a handler’s life is on the line.
“It’s a huge morale boost. If you have a dog on your team, you know you have one-up on whoever is against you,” Martin said.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Shaughnessy and his dog Jaga are scheduled to deploy to southwest Asia in the near future.
“Jaga is more than my work partner. She is like my child. At times she needs to be verbally corrected, but other times it’s OK to play, have fun and just be a dog,” he said.
But accomplishing the mission comes first, Shaughnessy said.
“I’m not worried. I’ll be with my best friend and we’ll experience it together,” he said.
In addition to the dogs, the exhibition included guns, a heavily armored Humvee and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Staff Sgt. Dom Pondant, who commanded a Humvee that provided convoy security in Iraq, described being shot at by men who hid in vineyards.
“It just scares the fire out of you,” he said.
The Humvee windows are made of two-inch-thick bullet-proof glass. A door weighs 400 pounds. The vehicle, which carries a crew of five, can move at up to 60 mph.
“It’s a good vehicle. It will go through about anything, that’s for sure,” he said.