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Old dog, new deployment

Fri., Jan. 14, 2011

Lucky, a Belgian Malinois, leaving Fairchild for duty in Kyrgyzstan

Lucky, a military dog based at Fairchild Air Force Base, may be 10 years old and a two-time cancer survivor, but he’s also young enough to take on a fourth tour of duty overseas.

Lucky and his new handler, Staff Sgt. Chris Fall, were scheduled to depart this morning for Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan after veterinarians at Fairchild gave Lucky the green light.

He and Fall will patrol the grounds at Manas, a relatively safe job compared with Lucky’s previous assignments searching for improvised bombs and weapons caches in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manas is the main entry point for military operations in Afghanistan. For Fall, this is his third deployment overseas and his second to Kyrgyzstan.

When Lucky returned from Iraq last summer, it was thought his age and health issues would force him into retirement.

“As long as a dog can work and he’s healthy, he can deploy,” said Tech. Sgt. Levi Wilson, one of the K-9 handlers at Fairchild in the 92nd Security Forces Squadron.

“For 10 years old, he is still healthy. He’s young at heart,” Wilson said.

A Belgian Malinois, Lucky is graying around the muzzle and he’s not as large as some of the other dogs in the military working dog section at Fairchild.

Even so, he is trained to remain cool under fire, and has the tenacity to subdue a fleeing suspect on command. Like other dogs in his breed, he adapts well to his surroundings.

His history is something of a legend among Air Force personnel. In 2008, he sniffed out an explosive fastened to a military generator at a forward base in Afghanistan, potentially saving lives.

In another deployment, he survived an improvised bomb attack with a group of soldiers on an Iraqi roadway.

For his valor, Lucky and his former handler, Staff Sgt. Gerald Martinez, were given the animal rescue heroes award by the American Red Cross in its 2010 Hometown Heroes awards.

Lucky was trained at a young age at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and then underwent extensive training with a handler.

In 2005, he had a tumor removed from a rear leg at the Washington State University veterinary school, and underwent radiation treatment. Another tumor was removed a year ago from the opposite leg by a Fairchild veterinarian. The tumor was detected during one of Lucky’s routine body checks.

“He’s extremely accurate, extremely precise,” said Fall, a seven-year veteran in the Air Force. “He’s very deliberate, so to speak. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

“He follows every command I give him,” Fall said. “He still loves to work.”

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