Passing of Cpl. Max inspires Fort Polk to build Military Working - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Passing of Cpl. Max inspires Fort Polk to build Military Working Dog cemetery

(Source: Fort Polk) (Source: Fort Polk)
FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) -

The Fort Polk community is mourning the loss of Cpl. Max, a military working dog, who died unexpectedly Jan. 5 at age 3.

The 50th Military Working Dog Detachment, 519th Military Police Battalion held a memorial service at the Military Working Dog Cemetery on Jan. 27.

Max completed his military working dog (MWD) training and received his certification as a patrol and drug detector dog in October 2014 at Lackland Air Force Base. He arrived at Fort Polk in January 2015 and participated in many training exercises and MWD demonstrations.

“Cpl. Max’s loss came as a surprise and hit the detachment hard,” said Lt. Col. Kirk Whittenberger, 519th Military Police Battalion commander at the memorial.

Whittenberger stressed the importance of Max and other dogs like him.

“From the command perspective, MWDs are viewed as an enabling force that provide specialized military police capabilities to combatant commanders, home station security and contingency operations,” he said. “From the handler’s perspective, it’s about the loss of a team member — a team that has slowly formed over time, founded on a deep trust and sense of loyalty with an instinctive confidence, reinforced by endless training repetitions under the most difficult of environments. More simply, the handler and dog are dependent on each other to accomplish the mission and the loss of either abolishes their team.”

Sgt. Robert Neese, kennel master staff. praised Max.

“As soldiers, we are given the choice of whether or not to serve in the armed forces; Max was not given that choice,” he said. “While Max’s career was short, it was full of potential and promise. I am thankful, and we should all be thankful, for the sacrifices that man’s best friends have made for our country.”

Neese said Max’s death brought awareness to the need for an MWD cemetery. Soldiers of the 519th Military Police Battalion and the Fort Polk community members joined to build the cemetery in front of the MWD kennels.

“This collective effort has built a fitting place to remember Cpl. Max, his predecessors and future detachment dogs,” Whittenberger said. 

Max had two handlers - Staff Sgt. Daniel Hargrove and Pfc. Jesikah Waite - at Fort Polk.

Hargrove and Max were teamed up in April 2015, until he deployed a year later, and Waite became Max’s handler in October 2016. Both handlers described Max as "unique."

“Max was a different kind of dog,” Hargrove said. “He wasn’t like the typical dog you see here. He was stubborn, but lovable.”

Waite said Max’s personality made him stick out among the MWDs.

“You always knew which dog he was walking through the kennels,” Waite said. “Every dog walked happily to their kennel, but Max always wanted to bark at every single dog on the way down to his - it was comforting hearing him go through the kennels.”

As a young dog, Hargrove and Waite said it was rewarding seeing Max get things right.

“Max was always high-strung and hardheaded. We were a little behind the learning curve because he was young and he needed work in the obedience portion of training,” Waite said. “But we were getting there slowly but surely - moving along every day trying to improve on things. When he did remember or execute something, I was happy for him because that’s a step in the right direction. He had the heart and the will to please me, his handler.”

Hargrove’s fondest memory of Max illustrated his unique personality.

“One of the best memories I’ve ever had with him was the first time he completed the obedience course off-leash by himself. After that, I could never get him to do it again,” Hargrove said, laughing. “Max did it perfectly. It just so happened that was the day of certification. He did it and I was so excited. Twenty minutes later, we went to do it again for the real run-through for certification and as soon as I let him off-leash, he ran away. He was a great dog, but man, was he stubborn.”

Hargrove said he enjoyed seeing Max grow and learn new things.

“When I first picked him up, he didn’t know much,” Hargrove said. “He was really young but throughout the time I worked with him, he went from not knowing how to sit or heel, to being able to do those things. His sense of smell was good when I picked him up, but after so much training, he was probably one of the best dogs when it came to sniffing and locating narcotics.”

Waite also praised Max’s skills in detecting narcotics.

“He was really good at detection,” Waite said. “He was the strongest in that. He hardly missed anything," he said. “He wanted to do the job. This was what he was excited to do every day.”

Waite said Max was a playful dog with a lot of energy.

“He had a big blue plastic ball in his kennel because he had so much energy,” Waite said. “He reminded me of a seal because he would hit the ball with his nose and it would go up in the air and he would chase it around.”

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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