JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
“It was a dry heat,” said Tech. Sgt. William Stone, 11th Security Support Squadron Military Working Dog trainer, recalling the day in vivid memory. “I remember just sitting in my post hearing two super loud Apaches flying above my head.”
Through that same noise, Stone heard screaming from his door that he and MWD Atos were needed for a mission.
“I was nervous, but excited,” Stone said.
Thus began the first of many missions Stone and Atos would conduct together during their deployment, including searching for high-value targets. One mission was an air assault in the mountains, where they were embedded in a team composed of Navy SEALs and Afghan special forces. When they initially landed, a few Taliban ran into a tunnel and began opening fire. The team took cover and began throwing grenades and other explosives.
“The entire time, I was thinking my wife is pregnant with our first child and there’s a chance that I’ll never meet my daughter,” Stone said.
Throughout the entire battle, Atos stayed by his side.
“Seeing how fearless he was … I wasn’t nervous anymore,” Stone said. “He showed me that we would be ok.”
For six years, Atos honorably served the 11th Security Forces Group before passing due to a rare heart condition.
In recognition of Atos’ devotion to fellow Defenders, the 11th SFG came together to mourn his loss and to celebrate his life and achievements with a memorial service last month.
Atos, a German Shepherd, was certified for explosives ordnance detection June 8, 2010, before starting his distinguished career at JBA. In six years, MWD Atos accumulated 8,000 search hours, 7,000 vehicle inspections and 100 aircraft sweeps for the president, vice president and distinguished visitors of the United States.
“Though his time was short in comparison to many of his fellow working dogs, Atos left his mark on our squadron and the Air Force,” said Col. Troy Roberts, 11th SFG commander.
For Roberts, Atos’ personality was easy to read. Through his actions, Roberts was able to recognize the innate love Atos had for his duty.
“It’s been said that our canine defenders are drafted into the service of their country,” Roberts said. “However, in Atos’ case, I believe if presented with the option to serve this great nation as an MWD, Atos’ response would be something akin to ‘So you want me to bite people for freedom? Yeah, I can do that for you.’”
According to Roberts, it took time for Atos to warm up his handlers and other human colleagues. However, this meant Atos’ loyalty to those he worked alongside had a deeper meaning than it does for most.
“I can say unequivocally, for those who worked with Atos, he loved you,” Roberts said. “There is no doubt in my mind he would have given his life to save yours without a moment’s hesitation.”