Remembering a "Guardian of the Night"

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The 1st Special Operations Wing lost another Air Commando March 7.

He was an integral component of the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron with more than 30,000 hours of detection time and 15,000 hours of training throughout years of service.

He was a combat veteran with service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, earned a Bronze Star and provided security for the last two presidents of the United States.

And he did all of this without seeking pay or leave but for the opportunity to protect the people he loved most.

"It's easy to see Rony was not just your average dog or average military working dog," said Master Sgt. James Miller, NCO in charge of plans and programs for the 1st SOSFS. "For that matter, he was much more. He was a friend, a companion, and a partner to those who had the privilege to be his handler. He gave everything he had day-in and day-out until his dying day. He will never be forgotten."

Dozens of Airmen, civilians, local community law enforcement and military working dogs paid tribute to Rony, an MWD from the 1st SOSFS, during a memorial service at the base chapel March 16.

Rony, who served Hurlburt Field for more than seven-and-a-half years, was euthanized March 7 to alleviate suffering from enduring cancer and recent internal bleeding.

As in past MWD memorial ceremonies, a "missing dog" display, consisting of an empty kennel, leash, and an inverted food bucket signifying the unbreakable bond between a handler and dog, centered in the chapel's front stage. 

"Remember me with kind thoughts and tales,'" said Staff Sgt. Ryan Troester, an MWD handler from the 1st SOSFS, while reading from the poem "Guardians of the Night." "'For a time we were unbeatable; nothing passed among us undetected. If we ever meet again on another field, I will gladly take up your fight. I am a military working dog and together, we are guardians of the night.'"

After completing patrol and explosive detection training, Rony joined the 1st SOSFS Sept. 13, 2004 at the age of two. In 2009, he went under the handling of Staff Sgt. Robert Calhoun, an MWD handler from the 1st SOSFS.

"I didn't realize it at the time but a great bond was being started," Calhoun said.

Their career together spanned from force protection at Hurlburt Field to countless combat foot patrols and air assault missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. His last tour to Kandahar, Afghanistan, included more than 1,000 hours outside the wire.

"On one of the patrols, we were taking enemy fire, and Rony stayed by my side as I returned fire," Calhoun said. "He then cleared the way for the assault element as we pushed forward. He conducted missions under fire on a daily basis. The enemy would target us more than others because Rony would find their various explosive devices."

While conducting door-to-door searches, Rony discovered more than 2,000 pounds of homemade explosives, including wiring devices and cell phones used as detonators, Calhoun said. He added that Rony's ability to quickly spot such improvised explosive devices made him a top-demand asset throughout the area of responsibility.

"All I ever wanted was to save lives and contribute to the mission success," Calhoun said. "Rony saved lives. Rony saved my life when we went into an abandoned compound, and he found a 155-round before I stepped on the pressure plate. Before we left, we were awarded the Bronze Star. He's the reason--he brought us home."

Calhoun recalled a recent trip to the veterinary clinic at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., not expecting these would be his final moments with Rony.

"I had the honor of standing by his side, holding his paw, softly sighing as his heart stopped beating," he said. "He's moved on and is at his true master's side. I'll always cherish the moments we had together and know for a moment in time we were untouchable. I'd say this to Rony, F547: thank you for your commitment, loyalty and trust. You will always be in my heart, and I will always love you. Rest in peace, my little warrior."