JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Brooke Army Medical Center commissioned a new four-legged staff member to the rank of Air Force major during a ceremony held June 6.
Maj. McAfee, a golden retriever, joins Army Maj. Budd, a Labrador retriever who was commissioned in 2022, as one of BAMC’s two facility dogs.
McAfee is owned and provided to BAMC by America’s VetDogs, an organization that trains and places facility dogs as part of the rehabilitation process in military and VA hospitals.
As a facility dog, McAfee serves a different function than that of BAMC’s therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are owned by their individual handlers and provide their service to BAMC’s patients, staff members and visitors. Facility dogs are similar to therapy dogs. However, therapy dogs only work occasionally on a volunteer basis, while facility dogs work full-time at their assigned facility.
Army Master Sgt. Eric McEllen read the official orders, which stated, in part, “Mac, effective with this commissioning, you are charged with the duty to comfort and cheer others and will direct and require all dogs of lesser grade to render obedience to appropriate orders. … You are responsible for the smiles of humans and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of your handlers. You will bring joy and comfort to all that need you while observing and following the orders and directions of your dad, Maj. Scott Penney, as well as the BAMC Facility Dog Handlers.”
In acceptance of his official duties, McAfee gave BAMC Commanding General Brig. Gen. Deydre Teyhen a nose bop followed by a salute.
“McAfee's presence here is not only symbolic; it represents a profound transformation in the way we deliver healthcare,” the general said. “As we strive to bring joy back to medicine, Mac’s role becomes paramount. His infectious enthusiasm, gentle spirit, and uncanny ability to empathize with patients, staff, and visitors, and also his love of treats, have made him an integral part of our healing environment.”
“McAfee is not just a dog; he is a beacon of hope, a source of comfort, and a symbol of resilience,” she added, noting that research has proven animals can aid in recovery.
Army Col. Sean Hipp, BAMC chief medical officer and a pediatric oncologist, shared how he was able to bring in the first facility dog in 2012.
“Koko and I spent about 10 years in this facility,” he said, adding that Koko not only helped his patients and their families but also was a great addition to the hospital staff.
“That experience is really what we saw with the facility dog program, that it not only affected patients and me and my family, it affected the staff and, in many ways, you can see that here today,” Hipp said.
Hipp also praised the therapy dog program, their handlers, and hospital leaders for their tireless efforts to expand the program.
“It just warms my heart,” Hipp said. “Today is a wonderful day. I hope this program continues to expand within Brooke Army Medical Center.”
Air Force Col. John Davis, 959th Medical Group commander, touted the importance of the Army and Air Force partnership at BAMC.
“As the first Air Force facility dog, McAfee is a symbol of the integration we strive for each day between our services as we continue to fight against injury, disease and our nations’ enemies,” Davis said. “As an Air Force facility dog, he does have to meet certain requirements. We call it the Airman’s Creed, so he must uphold these values.”
Davis read the Airman’s Creed, noting that McAfee accepted his duties by laying quietly during the ceremony. To view the Airman’s Creed, visit https://www.airforce.com/vision.
“What better way to honor the Air Force than with a dog that honors all these traits on a routine basis,” Davis said.
Teyhen echoed Davis’ sentiments regarding the importance of the integration of the Army and Air Force to BAMC’s success as an organization.
“Today, as we commission McAfee, we highlight our commitment to working together in the pursuit of providing the best possible care to our beneficiaries,” Teyhen said. “Congratulations, Mac! Your journey has just begun, and we eagerly anticipate the countless lives you will touch.”
“Mac, congratulations on your promotion,” David added. “I’m so excited to have you as part of our team.”