Arko, a 6-year old military working dog, who had deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait with the 88th Security Forces Squadron out of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, will be remembered Friday with a special service.
The German Shepherd was a patrol and explosive detector dog with deployments that included Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.
After a sudden illness, he was laid to rest February 16, 2014 in the Wright-Patterson AFB kennel.
Arko's 10:00 am memorial service will be conducted in true military fashion, including singing of the National Anthem, distinguished speakers and concluding with TAPS and a 21-Gun Salute.
From a Wright-Patterson AFB news release:
"It was very sudden," said Staff Sgt. Chris Pritchett, Arko's former handler who deployed with him to Afghanistan and Iraq.
"He worked all the way up to this death," Pritchett added. "He was in training Friday and died Sunday morning (in February) - we didn't even get to say goodbye to him which makes it even harder."
Arko participated in a lot of missions while deployed, both in and outside the fence. His primary job was to "sniff out" improvised explosive devices or IEDs to ensure the safety of personnel. Back here in the Miami Valley, Arko responded to requests for support from the surrounding community and also supported high-level Secret Service missions supporting presidential visits.
Arko, a brindle-colored German Shepard, started his military training when he was 2 years old at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB in November 2009 and worked with three handlers during his service career.
Arko, one of nine military works dogs assigned to the 88 SFS, was one of the senior dogs in the group, and was very sociable and good with people around him, according to Staff Sgt. Aaron Walker, his handler.
"Arko had a history with just about everyone here in the unit," said Walker. "Our current kennel master, Master Sgt. Matthew Hemeon, was actually one of Arko's initial trainers during Arko's military training at Lackland."
A connoisseur of good food, Arko ate just about anything but loved his "snacks" and loved to play with his favorite toy, Kong, a rubber ball, and work out on the treadmill, according to Walker.
"The thing he loved most though was the personal attention he would get from his handlers for doing his job," said Pritchett.
For members of the Military Working Dog Section, losing Arko is more than just losing man's best friend--"it's losing one of your comrades in arms," commented Pritchett.