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MWD retires, returns to original handler

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

After 42 dog-years of honorable service, and a final salute from past and present handlers, military working dog Apacs officially retired during a ceremony March 9, 2018, reflecting the accomplishments of what the narrator called ‘one of the 6th SFS’ finest Airmen.’

“He was tenacious, loving and trustworthy,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew McElyea, a military working dog trainer assigned to 6th SFS squadron and Apacs’s last handler, when describing him. “He didn’t take anything from anyone and demanded respect – a great partner.”

Throughout his distinguished career, Apacs demonstrated excellence by being credited with conducting 1,379 explosive detection sweeps, two deployments supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, and hundreds of anti-terrorism measures. He also supported numerous U.S. Secret Service missions, U.S. Department of State missions and United Nations General Assembly sessions.

“Even though he did a lot and deserved to retire and have some dog time, I was really sad because it was the last time I would ever see my partner for the last two and a half years,” said McElyea. “On the other hand, I was really happy because I knew he was going to someone who cared about him as much as I did.”

The event concluded with McElyea ceremoniously passing of the leash and Apacs’s new owner assuming responsibility.

“They got in contact with me and asked if I wanted him,” said Brandon Denton, a former military working dog handler with the 6th SFS and Apacs’s first handler. “It wasn’t even a decision. I said yes without hesitation.”

Their history began in May 2012 when Apacs arrived to MacDill, after entering service at Lackland Air Force Base, May 2011, and was assigned to Denton.

“When I first got him, the biggest thing was creating a bond,” said Denton. “I have always found that when working with a dog the most important thing is the bond because they’ll work with you, rather than work for you.”

For the next three years, they were inseparable.

“He was my best friend, both on and off duty,” said Denton. “Every single day, even if I was off, I would come in and spend time with him.”

Now that Apacs is retired, his days will be filled with detecting who’s at the door, rather than detecting explosives.

“Our time spent working together was easily the best three years in my career so having him as a pet is going to be even more amazing because he can actually be a real dog and not have a job,” said Denton. “There will be many days spent on the sand, on my stand up paddle board and really just enjoying life. I’ll let him actually have his retirement so he can enjoy it.”