Meet Ali, a sable German Shepherd, weighing 70 lbs. His best
friend is U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Macdonald, 19th Security
Forces Squadron kennel master at Little Rock Air Force Base,
Arkansas, who uses his upbringing to train Air Force military
“Growing up, I used to help my dad train
hunting dogs,” Macdonald said. “I have a passion for the things we
can teach dogs to do.”
Macdonald decided to become a civilian
K-9 officer. However, he couldn’t apply because of his lack of
“I wanted to be a K-9 cop, but I was too young
so I thought about joining the military,” Macdonald said. “I wanted
to use the military as a stepping stone. I first enlisted in 2005,
two months after graduating high school.”
February 3, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Macdonald,
19th Security Forces Squadron kennel master, has been a service
member since 2005. As a kennel master, Macdonald manages and
monitors unit military working dog training. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor)
In March 2010, Macdonald graduated the Military Working
Dog Handler Course at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Upon
graduating, Macdonald received orders to Columbus Air Force
Base, Mississippi, and was paired with Maci, a black male
German Shepherd who specialized in explosives.
TRAINING BECOMES REALITY
Macdonald and Maci received
orders to Khandahar, Afghanistan, and they were sent to
Forward Operating Base Ma'sum Ghar in 2011. During that
deployment, Macdonald developed a deep appreciation for the
role MWDs play.
“I went on a mission where I
actually got to use my dog,” Macdonald said. “My dog did his
job, he did exactly what he was trained to do. It was a
remarkable thing for me because it made me realize how
important our job is.”
After returning home from his
deployment, Macdonald swapped dogs with another dog handler
to rehabilitate a dog who had suffered a heatstroke – Ali.
“Our relationship started rough because I hated him,”
Macdonald said. “I hated everything about him, I hated
feeding him, I hated touching him and I hated pulling him.
He even bit me one time.”
Shortly after being paired
with Ali, Macdonald received orders to Bagram Air Base,
Afghanistan in 2013. Macdonald and Ali worked through their
differences to prepare for their deployment. Once arrived,
they were assigned to a special operations team under U.S.
Army Special Forces.
“I got to experience being
attached to a 12-man special forces team and what they
really do,” Macdonald said. “They were my brothers for six
months. They even grew real close to Ali, they always wanted
him there because he brought them comfort.”
experience the same adverse conditions as their two-legged
counterparts while deployed. Although they wear vests and
other protective gear, they are not omitted from danger when
“There was a time where Ali and I were
receiving gunfire,” Macdonald said. “We were out searching
in front of the team and all of a sudden I saw rounds
hitting the area around him.”
dropped to his knee and tried to call him back to his side
but, in response, Ali lied down.
“I remember that
moment because he's lying down, looking back at me and
wagging his tail like he's having a good time,” Macdonald
said. “I was like ‘Dog, you are getting shot at, come over
here.’ If one of the rounds would have hit him, it would
have changed everything.”
Macdonald sprinted to a
ditch as he called back to Ali; Ali then darted after him.
“He jumped on my chest and was wagging his tail,
having a blast,” Macdonald said. “He was having fun. He
thought it was a game but he was really doing his job.
Meanwhile, all I hear is rounds zinging by us; rounds all
over the place.”
BRINGING A WINGMAN HOME
months and many missions later, Macdonald and Ali returned
home to Columbus AFB. Shortly after arriving, Macdonald
received orders to Little Rock AFB in January 2014. After
his permanent change of station, he was notified of Ali's
retirement because of his separation anxiety.
anxiety turned into muscle deterioration in his front
limbs,” Macdonald said. The veterinarian was monitoring him
very closely because of his separation anxiety, it led to
him being retired out.”
But Macdonald had other plans
“We were like best friends,” Macdonald
said. “It was like it was me and him against the world. He
watched my back while we were deployed and I felt like it
was my turn to watch his.”
In July 2014, he drove
from Little Rock AFB back to Columbus AFB to adopt his best
“When I got there, you would have thought he
was a puppy all over again,” Macdonald said. “His tail was
wagging and he jumped in my arms. It was the whole shebang,
he was very excited to see me.”
Since Ali's adoption,
he and Macdonald have been inseparable.
him home and he will not allow me to leave one room without
following me,” Macdonald said. “It's almost like he has to
keep eyes on me at all times.”
Today, Ali continues
to live with Macdonald, and his condition has improved.
“Most of the deterioration has gone,” Macdonald said.
“He still has separation anxiety but he's a lot calmer
because he's not being worked the same way. Every morning I
put on my uniform, Ali is standing up and he's ready to go.
He’ll even follow me outside while I’m putting stuff in my
car for work. He still carries the characteristics of a
working dog, that's all he wants to do.”
Macdonald still desires to come to work every day. He plans
on retiring from the Air Force in eight years. While
Macdonald won’t wear his uniform forever, he’ll continue to
carry himself with the same confidence and pride as his
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor
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