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Every military working dog has his day

Military working dog Max rests in a chair during his retirement ceremony March 23 in the 39th Security Forces Squadron guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. To celebrate Max’s distinguished career, members of Team Incirlik, to include many defenders, crowded the guardmount room to pay tribute to the military working dog who aided in protecting the base and residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Military working dog Max rests in a chair during his retirement ceremony March 23 in the 39th Security Forces Squadron guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. To celebrate Max’s distinguished career, members of Team Incirlik, to include many defenders, crowded the guardmount room to pay tribute to the military working dog who aided in protecting the base and residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

The 39th Security Forces Squadron held a retirement ceremony March 23, 2012, in the guardmount room for Max, a military working dog who served at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey for 10 years. Throughout his service, Max conducted 4,784 inspection sweeps, which are done to ensure places are safe for distinguished visitors, and racked up 982 hours of duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

The 39th Security Forces Squadron held a retirement ceremony March 23, 2012, in the guardmount room for Max, a military working dog who served at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey for 10 years. Throughout his service, Max conducted 4,784 inspection sweeps, which are done to ensure places are safe for distinguished visitors, and racked up 982 hours of duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Staff Sgt. Joshua Ball, 39th Maintenance Squadron, hugs Max, a retired military working dog, prior to the dog's retirement ceremony March 23, 2012 in the 39th Security Forces Squadron guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Max retired because of deteriorating health conditions caused by age. Max moved in with his adopted owners, the Ball family, a few weeks ago while the squadron planned his formal retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Staff Sgt. Joshua Ball, 39th Maintenance Squadron, hugs Max, a retired military working dog, prior to the dog's retirement ceremony March 23, 2012 in the 39th Security Forces Squadron guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Max retired because of deteriorating health conditions caused by age. Max moved in with his adopted owners, the Ball family, a few weeks ago while the squadron planned his formal retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Tomkiewicz, 39th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, plays with Max, a military working dog, March 23, 2012, in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey before the dog's retirement ceremony. Max retired because of deteriorating health conditions caused by age. Max moved in with his adopted owners, the Ball family, a few weeks ago while the squadron planned his formal retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Tomkiewicz, 39th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, plays with Max, a military working dog, March 23, 2012, in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey before the dog's retirement ceremony. Max retired because of deteriorating health conditions caused by age. Max moved in with his adopted owners, the Ball family, a few weeks ago while the squadron planned his formal retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Stacey Ball, owner of former military working dog, Max, pets the dog to keep him calm during the invocation at his retirement ceremony March 23, 2012 in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Max now lives with Mrs. Ball and her husband, Staff Sgt. Joshua Ball, 39th Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Stacey Ball, owner of former military working dog, Max, pets the dog to keep him calm during the invocation at his retirement ceremony March 23, 2012 in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Max now lives with Mrs. Ball and her husband, Staff Sgt. Joshua Ball, 39th Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Capt. Jason Williams, 39th Security Forces Squadron operations officer, speaks during the retirement of military working dog Max March 23, 2012 in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The process for a retiring military working dog adoption includes various steps from the dog and adopted owner’s location all the way to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. At Lackland, each dog’s records and an aggressiveness film compiled by the dog’s handler are evaluated to determine each dog’s adoption suitability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

Capt. Jason Williams, 39th Security Forces Squadron operations officer, speaks during the retirement of military working dog Max March 23, 2012 in the 39th SFS guardmount room at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The process for a retiring military working dog adoption includes various steps from the dog and adopted owner’s location all the way to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. At Lackland, each dog’s records and an aggressiveness film compiled by the dog’s handler are evaluated to determine each dog’s adoption suitability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O'Brien/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- A retirement ceremony held March 23 in the 39th Security Forces Squadron guardmount room honored a hero who began his Air Force service shortly after birth.

A Belgian Malinois military working dog named Max, who arrived at Incirlik in April 2002, retired because of deteriorating health conditions caused by age. Max moved in with his adopted owners, the Ball family, a few weeks ago while the squadron planned his formal retirement.

"He's developing hip dysplasia due to age; that's why we determined it's time for him to go," said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Tomkiewicz, 39th Security Forces Squadron kennel master. "He wants to work, he's got the mindset to, but his body just can't hold up. So we did the disposition process, and it just worked out."

The process for a retiring military working dog adoption includes various steps from the dog and adopted owner's location all the way back to where each dog's career starts: Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. At Lackland, each dog's records and an aggressiveness film compiled by the dog's handler is evaluated to determine each dog's adoption suitability. The amount of time it takes to decide if the dog can be adopted varies depending on the dog.

"We have to gather training records, supporting medical documentation from our veterinarian, and letters of approval from our commander and program manager. Once we have all of this, we make a video demonstrating the dog's aggressive nature - if there is any," said Tomkiewicz. "Lackland will make the final determination if a dog can be adopted or not. It is common for them to be adopted, but I have seen some cases where they cannot.

"The video test we did on Max showed he has no aggressiveness," he said.

Once that process is complete, an adoption candidate is found. In Max's case, finding a new home was easy. His adopted owner, Stacey Ball, an Incirlik veterinary clinic technician, jumped at the opportunity as soon as she heard about it.

"I knew about his retirement and put in my application as soon as possible," she said. "I love Max. He's a giant sweetheart, and he loves life."

However, the hardworking canine hasn't always been so calm. Tomkiewicz said earlier in Max's career he was quite energetic and sunk teeth into every handler he had.

"Max had an aggressive nature back when he was a younger dog," said Tomkiewicz. "Yes, he bit every handler at one point; but as the years went on, he has gotten older and more (relaxed). Now, he pretty much wants to hang out and be left alone with his toy ball."

Throughout his service, Max conducted 4,784 inspection sweeps, which are done to ensure places are safe for distinguished visitors and racked up 982 hours of duty.

"He (searched) anything from buildings, vehicles, luggage, and in one case, Air Force One," said Tomkiewicz.

Tomkiewicz said Max has a determination found in few dogs, and every search he tackled until he retired, he did thoroughly.

"He would work until the end," said Tomkiewicz. "Even right before we could give him to his owners, he would run some detections problems and work like a champion. I have seen dogs younger in my time that just give up searching. He kept going until the end."

To celebrate Max's distinguished career, members of Team Incirlik, to include many defenders, crowded the guardmount room to pay tribute to the military working dog who aided in protecting the base and residents.

"The purpose of today is to honor one of our canine comrades for his military service," said Tomkiewicz during the retirement ceremony. "Today, these military dogs are trained to detect explosives, narcotics and even other people. Their primary mission ranges from entry control points at deployed locations to protecting American borders from the introduction of illegal narcotics. Additionally, these heroes are used to augment the United States Secret Service in protection of the president, vice president and other foreign dignitaries."

Fellow 39th SFS dog handler Staff Sgt. Benjamin Isom echoed Tomkiewicz' sentiments during Max's retirement.

"Max has dedicated his life to protecting his handlers and serving the needs of the United States Air Force, the 39th Air Base Wing, 39th Mission Support Group, and of course, the 39th Security Forces Squadron," said Isom. "Max is an outstanding dog that is truly unsurpassable. He served his country faithfully and to the fullest extent of his capabilities. Max is the epitome of the security forces military working dog section's motto, 'Faithful, Fearless, and Forever.'"

For the past eight years, Bahadir Acet, a kennel attendant responsible for ensuring dogs stay current with medications and basic tending, cared for max. Acet said he will miss Max, but he is happy the dog found such a great home.

"I am sure life will be comfortable for him now, so I don't cry - though I will miss him," said Acet.

Max now lives with Mrs. Ball and her husband Staff Sgt. Joshua Ball, 39th Maintenance Squadron. The couple also owns another dog, but said the two get along.

"I love him," said Sergeant Ball. "He fits right in. He came home, and the first day he jumped right up on the couch."

To close the ceremony, the dog handling team presented Max with a hamburger as a token of the team's appreciation for his accomplishments.