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Air Force MWD handler reunites with best friend

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- "It was a very long day of searching [a village in Iraq]," said Staff Sgt. Mark Bush, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, referring to one day during a deployment to Iraq in 2010. "We searched vehicles in the area for hours, both parked and passing through."

Earlier this month, Bush seized the opportunity of a lifetime, adopting retired MWD Chukky at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 10 and reuniting with his old friend after their long separation.

As a senior airman at Nellis, Chukky was assigned to Bush and together they deployed twice to Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2008 and Baghdad, from 2009 to 2010. They spent a total of three and a half years with one another, making it the longest Bush has kept the same MWD.

With the help of non-profit organizations like The Dawgs Project and Pilots N Paws, Bush was able to travel to Nellis to retrieve Chukky and fly him to his new home.

"Chukky and I hit it off at the beginning of developing our team dynamic," Bush said. "Being together as long as we were, Chukky and I communicated well with each other. He knew exactly what he needed to do just by the way I looked at him."

As one of their final missions together, Chukky and Bush proved to be quite the dynamic-duo, discovering 50 pounds of homemade explosives.

"As we were walking through a village," Bush said. "Chukky approached a blue vehicle without windows. After searching for so many hours [and] to see such a change in his behavior [with] tail up and wagging, a burst of energy, and focused on odor, I knew we had something. I didn't need a final response. His change of behavior was enough for me to call it."

Bush said that as a military working dog handler the find was one of their biggest accomplishments.

"I was incredibly excited that Chukky and I had located the vehicle," Bush said. "I thought about the many lives we had saved. We train daily to find explosives and protect the people behind us."

Chukky was given the Military Working Dog Certificate of Meritorious Service from the Nellis MWD unit for his outstanding service.

During his career, Chukky secured over 13,000 personnel, $2.9 billion worth of Department of Defense resources, and executed numerous missions with the Secret Service. He also completed four deployments, and was responsible for the discovery of over 200 pounds of random explosives, saving dozens of U.S. and coalition lives.

The accomplished K-9 even helped secure the nation's highest leaders, clearing areas to safeguard two U.S. presidents.

In addition to Chukky's service, he has been an amazing part of Bush's career, the defender said.

"He made coming to work the most enjoyable," Bush said. "It was like coming to hang out with a best friend."

As Chukky transitions into his new lifestyle, Bush said he is already setting a good example of obedience to the younger dog in their home, and the Airman is looking forward to giving him a comfortable couch to lie on, a good time at the lake and a lot of love.

"He's a part of the family now," Bush said.