JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — After nearly eight years of military service, the oldest military working dog at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will, for the first time, become somebody’s pet.
Military Working Dog Kimba, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois serving with JBER’s 673rd Security Forces Squadron, part of the Air Force’s 673rd Air Base Wing, retired Friday in a ceremony attended by four of her canine comrades. Her career had included everything from foot patrols of the base to drug detection to demonstration patrols.
In her eight year career at JBER, Kimba has been assigned to seven different handlers and hit on 32 narcotics finds, officials said. Her most recent handler, Staff Sgt. Christopher Bennett, called her "the best friend" he's had since he's been at serving at JBER.
Kimba completed her training in 2011 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, squadron officials said. Out of about 2,500 tested for military service every year, about 750 are selected for rigorous training. An additional quarter drop out before completing the training.
The new red and blue "forever" stamps will feature a German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherd.
Lt. Col. Richard Zeigler, commander of the 673rd Security Forces Squadron, called Kimba his "favorite," assuring all the other canines present that "you guys will all get your chance from now on."
"She probably doesn't know what's going on, but maybe she will reflect in a few years on the service that she's provided," Zeigler said. "She's going to a good home. Now she can get up on the couch and have a blast."
Military working dogs are placed for adoption when they retire, and Kimba will live out her retirement in the home of Capt. Luke Restad, a member of the squadron.
Bennett formally handed Kimba's leash off to Restad at Friday's ceremony.
"I had some openings in the house and a lot of big backyard, so I just wanted to be able to give back to Kimba for what she's given to the Air Force," Restad said.
He said Kimba has been transitioning well into her new home over the past couple of weeks. Restad doesn't have any other pets, which is ideal because military working dogs don't have much opportunity to socialize with other pets during their service, he said.
The award highlights extraordinary valor and service.
When asked whether he had any advice for Restad, Bennett said, "patience."
“Definitely watch your fingers when you’re giving her toys, because she does tend to like to nip.”