82nd SFS says early goodbye to MWD

Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, from the 82nd Security Force Squadron, pets Charque, his military working dog, during the dog’s retirement ceremony May 25. Charque served for eight years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jennifer Baxter).

Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, from the 82nd Security Force Squadron, pets Charque, his military working dog, during the dog’s retirement ceremony May 25. Charque served for eight years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jennifer Baxter).

Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, 82nd Security Forces Squadron, shows Charque, his military working dog, some affection during the dog’s retirement ceremony May 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jennifer Baxter).

Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, 82nd Security Forces Squadron, shows Charque, his military working dog, some affection during the dog’s retirement ceremony May 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jennifer Baxter).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Since his arrival to Sheppard in May 1998, the 10-year old, 90-pound Belgian Tervuren named Charque has had quite an illustrious career, which was cut short recently due to an injury. 

Maj. Gregory Nowak, 82nd Security Forces Squadron commander, retired Charque about two years early with the same honors which would be bestowed upon any Air Force member after he tore a ligament in his leg. 

The injury was reparable. However, his age and the needed recovery time didn't prove beneficial to the Air Force. 

"Ten years is about the average working life-span of military working dogs," said Tech. Sgt. Terrie Welch, the kennel master at the 82nd SFS. "Repairing him and returning him to duty is not a viable option." 

In 2000, the Air Force began allowing working dog handlers to adopt retired dogs. Charque, however, did not benefit from the program. His aggressive disposition disqualified him during the screening, and the Air Force considered him too aggressive to be a house pet. Therefore, Charque will be euthanized. 

"A dog of his temperament is a great asset to the military and to police officers, but not a suitable candidate for adoption due to liability," said Staff Sgt. Nate Workman, the MWD trainer at the 82nd SFS. "It's unfortunate he's not a suitable adoption candidate. Seeing this dog with his handler you would think he was the sweetest dog on the planet." 

He said Charque's disposition changes, however, when anyone other than his trusted handler enters his view. Foaming, drooling and growling are commonplace when people approach this dog's cage. 

When one of Charque's handlers died in 2002, the squadron had to recall former handler Officer Christopher Reichmann back to active duty to acclimate the dog to Tech. Sgt. Timothy Poag, his then-new handler. 

"Charque was confined to his kennel for weeks because he wouldn't let anyone take him out," Sergeant Poag said. 

Officer Reichmann, who now works for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was Charque's very first handler. 

"I remember getting the call back in 2002," Mr. Reichmann said. "They needed me to come back to Sheppard and help them turn Charque over to Sergeant Poag."
Mr. Reichmann was a reservist at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., at the time and said was more than happy to come back to Sheppard. 

"Reichmann came back to Sheppard after a three-year absence, walked right into Charque's cage like it was nothing and gave him a big hug," Sergeant Poag said. 

For the following two weeks, Officer Reichmann would go into Charque's cage and put a muzzle on him for Sergeant Poag. 

"Charque and I would go for a walk every day for several weeks," Sergeant Poag said. "Finally one day after our walk, he came up, sat down and looked up at me. The look in his eyes let me know he thought I was okay and that was it. I was his new daddy." 

In his eight-year tour of duty at Sheppard, Charque has had four handlers. His current handler, Staff Sgt. Thomas Butler, is pretty upset about the situation. 

"He was a true hero and a great partner," Sergeant Butler said. "When he worked, he gave it his all, and he'll never be forgotten." 

Charque has deployed four times in eight years, to everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Kyrgyzstan. He's supported 12 Secret Service missions, ensuring the safety of everyone from U.N. ambassadors, the secretary of the Air Force, the vice president and on four occasions, the president of the United States. 

In September 2005, Charque went to New York City for the 60th Annual United Nations General Assembly where he provided steadfast support to representatives from all U.N. Member states. 

"Charque has done more for his country than most Americans," Sergeant Workman said.