TAMPA — Eddie the war hero is retiring, tail and all.
The Belgian Malinois that may have saved the life of his handler and others in Afghanistan in 2012 is retiring with full military honors at a ceremony Friday, MacDill Air Force Base said Tuesday.
"Most significantly, Eddie's role in Operation Enduring Freedom resulted in him locating two improvised explosive devices containing 10 pounds of homemade explosives which saved the lives of his 13-member patrol unit comprising U.S. allied forces," the base said.
Eddie, a bomb sniffing dog assigned to MacDill's 6th Security Forces Squadron, has served for about five years. In retirement, he will be reunited with his first handler, Andrew Grymes.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Shannon Hutto credits Eddie with saving his life in that 2012 mission.
On May 23, 2012, Hutto had Eddie on a leash leading a platoon during a routine daytime patrol. The group stopped to rest as an officer talked to some locals. Hutto sat against a tree with Eddie beside him.
It wasn't long before the group got the command to move out. Hutto stood and took one step, but Eddie wouldn't budge.
"He didn't want to get up," Hutto recalled. "At first, I thought he was just being lazy."
Eddie gave his buddy a kind of exasperated look. The dog lowered his nose to the dirt. He nudged something under the dust. Hutto looked closely. Just six inches from his foot was the contact plate that would detonate an improvised explosive device, or IED.
Hutto said, "It was a moment of clarity."
He backed away, using "baby steps." He pulled a ball from a pocket. He threw it in the direction opposite the IED. It was Eddie's usual reward.
Brave as he is, Eddie has one weak spot — he hates swimming.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]