Happy trails, happy tails: Robins AFB MWD retires

  • Published
  • By Alexandra Shea
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, were joined by installation leadership to celebrate the retirement of Military Working Dog Robo Dec. 2, 2022, at the MWD working course on base.

While sitting in front of the crowd gathered in his honor, Robo’s eyes continually scanned his surroundings. A black rubber Kong made popping sounds as his jaws worked away at his favorite training toy. Robo was considered a small working dog weighing in around 60 pounds. Though small in stature, he was lightning quick according to his handlers.

“Robo was known as the ‘Psycho dog,’” said Staff Sgt. David Zamudio, 78th SFS MWD handler. “He was the dog that nobody wanted to mess with and the kind of dog that keeps you on your toes, because the moment you give him time to think for himself, he’s up to mischief.

“He would always break out of his kennel, whether it be in my room or patrol vehicle, all he ever did was open my bag to get his Kong out,” Zamudio continued. “Working with him always made me second guess if I even knew what I was doing. In the end, he always made every single handler he worked with better and somehow grew a bond that was unexpected.”

For the past eight years – 56 dog years – Robo’s focus has been to protect and serve this installation through physical security patrols, theft deterrence, distinguished visitor protection and explosives detection, both state side and while deployed throughout the Middle East.

While assigned to the base, Robo had several handlers. Each would have their own unique relationships and nickname for their furry coworker and fellow guardian.

“When I deployed with Robo, it was both of our first deployments,” said Staff Sgt. Troy Smith, 78th SFS MWD handler. “I was going through some hard times during that deployment, and he was an outlet for me.”

Smith was one of Robo’s first handlers. He used training with Robo as his outlet to help reduce stress while dealing with his personal matters.

They diligently worked together to curb unwanted behaviors while increasing their effective communication with one another.

“I called him ‘Bro-bo’ because he was my ‘bro,’” Smith said.

“He was our little ‘Sour Patch Kid,’ sour and then sweet,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Cerulli, 78th SFS MWD handler. “Anyone who worked him will tell you he taught us lessons. If you have worked dogs beforehand, you think you know what you are doing. Then you work Robo and say, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’

“He is a whole other animal. He taught me patience as a handler and taught me lifelong lessons that made me a better person, better father and better husband,” Cerulli continued. “He is a Houdini. During Secret Service missions he stayed in my room with me. I would leave and his kennel would be secured, but when I got back, he would be on the bed watching TV.”

Born Sept. 15, 2013, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Robo was initially known as number W509.

He was among 2,500 dogs bred that year for MWD training and was one of only 750 to complete the training program.

“Patience is one thing I thought I had until I got Robo. He quickly made me realize that I had not been tested,” said Zamudio. “Each moment I got upset at him for being such a hard-headed dog, I ended up realizing what I could have done better to keep those moments from happening,” Zamudio said. “It forced me to stop and think about a better game plan. Even though Robo gave us hell, it wasn’t for nothing.”

After the speeches, the Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard conducted the flag presentation and Robo received the Meritorious Service Award.

Then, his final home was announced.

“We are excited to announce that MWD Robo has been chosen to be placed in a home after retirement,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Canty-Lane II, 78th SFS commander. “A special thanks to Staff Sgt. Zamudio for opening his home and adopting soon-to-be retired Robo, giving him the luxurious opportunity to be known as just a pet. Robo, thank you for your service and a job well done.”

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Air Force Song and congratulations to Robo on his retirement and to Zamudio for becoming his final, forever handler. The popping sound of the training Kong Robo is never without finally silenced as he trotted around Zamudio’s legs, his eyes continuing to scan the crowd of people being ever vigilant in his duties, retired or not.

In closing, Smith recited the last stanza of the “Guardian of the Night” poem.

“I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, ever loyal … I am a military working dog and together we are the guardians of the night.”