MPs remember battle buddy

Military Police from the 554th MP Company gathered in the Panzer Chapel Jan. 20 for a memorial ceremony to remember and honor a fallen comrade. The accomplished eight-year career of Military Working Dog E024, better known as Cedo, came to an end when he had to be euthanized in December.

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Johnson, Cedo’s handler over the last two years, participated in the ceremony by reading a poem entitled “Guardians of the Night” and ringing a bell signifying a “last call home” before closing the door to Cedo’s kennel and rendering a final salute to his partner.

“He was a friendly dog in comparison to the others … not very aggressive,” said Johnson, a military working dog handler with seven years experience. “He loved to be petted and wanted to play with everyone.”

Cedo was born in August 2000 and attended the military working dogs training school at Lackland Air Force Base in 2001. In July 2002, he was assigned to the 26th Area Support Group in Kaiserslautern.

The German shepherd was reassigned to Stuttgart in February 2007,  after the first of three deployments to combat operations  —  two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He also provided security for the president, vice president and secretary of state during VIP visits.  “He worked and played hard, and when that was done, he would sleep hard, too,” said Johnson, with a laugh. “He had the heart of a champion.”

Johnson witnessed this first-hand during their deployment to Afghanistan last year. They would often go on support missions with 10th Mountain Division in search of weapon caches, many times over rough terrain and with temperatures near 120 degrees. 

“There was one mission that was only supposed to be a couple hours, but ended up taking almost nine,” Johnson said. “Toward the end, we ran out of water and I had to give Cedo an IV. He was really tired, but he pushed though. I was really proud of him.”

During another mission supporting the 101st Airborne, Johnson and Cedo were again asked to stay longer than they had planned for. While waiting for supplies — including dog food — to arrive, Johnson shared his field rations with Cedo to keep him going.

The bond between dog and handler gets much stronger while on deployment, according to Sgt. Brad Carrico, a fellow dog handler with the 554th MP Company.  
“You’re basically all each other has,” Carrico said.  “While on deployment, you’re together 24/7 so you do everything together … . I even let my dog sleep on the foot of the bed with me.”  After Johnson and Cedo returned in June 2011 from their deployment, Johnson noticed a considerable change in Cedo’s behavior. 

He was increasingly tired and began showing signs of neurological problems that affected his rear legs and ability to walk. “He still wanted to work and play, but couldn’t,” Johnson said. “At first, the vet wanted to let Cedo retire and be adopted, but after a while it was pretty clear that his quality of life was decreased.” On Cedo’s last day, Johnson said goodbye and held Cedo throughout the procedure. 

Johnson won’t be getting a new working dog; he has since become a plans and operations sergeant. However, he’ll still play a role in training the other eight working dogs in the Stuttgart area.

“It has been hard, even though we saw it coming,”  Johnson said. “We try to act tough because we’re Soldiers, but it’s difficult. It’s really is like losing a family member.”