An Airman’s best friend

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Every end has a new beginning, even for an Airman’s career.

This resonated deeply with the Defenders of the 39th Security Forces Squadron, especially the military working dog handlers, as they recently celebrated the retirement of one of their furry, four-legged Airmen.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Fletcher, an MWD trainer, gave an poignant farewell message to Autumn, his beloved working dog. What made the occasion even more emotional for Fletcher was the fact that Autumn would be his last MWD as he continues his journey in the Security Forces career field.

“Autumn, you beautiful old lady,” he said. “I can say one year working with you made my short tour here worth it! You made the time here pass by.”

“To describe Autumn as goofy would be spot on,” he added. “She is not like any other working dog I’ve had. She constantly wants to play fetch no matter how tired she is.”

Autumn spent about 10 years as an MWD, beginning her tenure in the Marine Corps and then switching to the Air Force after three years.

“She’s the only dog we have (here) that doesn’t do any bite work,” said 39th SFS Commander, Lt. Col. Kevin McMahon. “But she makes up for it with one hell of a nose!”

McMahon told a story of when Fletcher and Autumn did training together. Their task was to detect a certain object associated with explosives. McMahon said he thought the object was so well hidden that Autumn couldn’t detect it—but she did.

“As she walked down that hallway and approached the doorway, she stopped and looked straight at it,” McMahon said. “Autumn, I hope retirement is full of tennis balls and comfy couches for you in the years to come.”

Fletcher recounted stories of his time with Autumn, pointing out that their working relationship was not “all work and no play,” but an adventure filled with humorous moments as well. Fletcher mentioned a time when he was helping Autumn transition from life as an MWD to a pet dog, she tried to steal his ping pong balls.

Even with all the laughable incidents, Fletcher always knew Autumn would have his back. She was not just his colleague, but his wingman as well.

“She doesn’t care about the other working dogs, but when it came to the strays, she was ready to fight… with all seven of those teeth she has left,” Fletcher said jokingly, prompting a roar of laughter from the audience.

Fletcher concluded his speech by reading “Guardians of the Night,” a popular poem in the MWD community.

“And when our time together is done and you move on in the world, remember me with kind thoughts and tales,” he read, becoming more emotional he finished the last stanza. “For a time we were unbeatable, and nothing passed among us undetected. If we should meet again on another field, I will gladly take up your fight. I am a police working dog and together we are the Guardians of the Night.”

Autumn’s retirement ceremony mirrored those given to a normal Airman, complete with award presentations and a retirement citation reading. One of the culminating events was a “final sniff,” in which Autumn was tasked to detect an object hidden in one of several boxes. She found the right box, and was rewarded with a flurry of fetch balls.

“I can truly say that it’s an honor being your last handler, and you being my last working dog,” Fletcher said to Autumn. “Those long nights watching car shows or movies, and you trying to steal our beer pong balls is something I’m really going to miss. You deserve a great retirement… I love you old lady!”