Retiring K9 Defender is a ‘Good Boy’

  • Published
  • By R.J. Oriez
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio—The radio on the podium, next to the microphone, crackled to life.

“Kilo-8, control. Kilo-8, control. Kilo-8, this is control. This is the last call for Kilo-8”

The last call is a poignant moment in the retirement ceremony of a peace officer—whether it is for a civilian police officer or a military defender. Normally, the dispatcher will go on to say good things about the retiree and to wish them well.

This one was a bit different. The dispatcher called Kilo-8 a “robot dog.” But, in Kilo-8’s circle, that is one of the highest forms of compliment. Another one is “good boy.”

Kilo-8 was the call sign for Military Working Dog Ddesmond, 88th Security Forces Squadron, and he retired during a ceremony Nov. 30, 2023, in the Wright-Patt Club.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Bennett, 88 SFS, Ddesmond’s last handler, explained the robot-dog reference.

“His obedience level. He is like a robot,” Bennett said. “You tell him something, he'll do it.”

It is a sentiment shared by Ddesmond’s previous handlers.

Staff Sgt. Austin Stoeke—currently with 51 SFS, Osan Air Base, South Korea—said Ddesmond was like that from the beginning.

“When we first got him at Wright-Patt, he was about as robotic as a dog could be,” Stoeke said. “He knew all the standard commands, and he was very good at all of the aspects of his job.”

Senior Airman Brian Chalk, 8 SFS, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, remembers Ddesmond the same.

“Far as a working dog, he was like a push button robot dog. Anything you told him to do, he did it instantly without hesitation.” Chalk said.

Robot is not the only word people uniformly use to describe Ddesmond.

“Once you get working with him and get around him, you realize how much of a sweetheart he is,” Bennett said. “He wants to just be around you and please you. That is his biggest job.”

“He's an incredibly sweet dog as long as you're not a bad guy or wearing a bite suit,” Stoeke said.

Stoeke and Ddesmond deployed as a team to Air Base 201, Niger, Africa.

“He lived with me in my little room on deployment, because we didn't have a kennel,” Stoeke said. “We were together almost 24/7. We would go to work. We would come back. He would sleep on the bed with me.”

Ddesmond was born into the Air Force, which explains the double letter at the start of his name. Ddesmond came from the military working dog breeding program at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. All dogs that come from the program have double letters at the start of their names.

Maj. Thomas Uhl, 88 SFS commander, explained that Ddesmond’s career was cut short due to complications with recovery following an ACL surgery.

“It's the same things we have with any military member going through and getting medically retired because, during the course of their duties, they got hurt” Uhl said.  Uhl added, “You know, handlers and their dogs, they're a very tight, tight community.”

Although medically retired,  bonds are formed between fellow Airmen. Chalk and Ddesmond will be spending more time together soon as he will adopt his K9 companion after returning from a deployment. Until then, Chalk's sister will care for Ddesmond.

“I felt like we had a really great bond for the short time that we were together and he's a super sweet dog,” Chalk said. “He just deserves to have a couch to lay on and I want to make sure he has that.”

Back at the ceremony, the dispatcher finishes the last call.

“Your presence will be greatly missed. Most importantly, enjoy being a dog. You have been relieved of duty. We have it from here. Good boy Ddesmond.”