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Lacklanders make a wish come true

By Patrick Desmond | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | July 24, 2009

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — One hand shaking another was all it took to turn one teenage girl's dream of watching military working dogs up close into actually wearing a bite sleeve with a 6-month-old Belgian Malinois attached to it.

Make-A-Wish Foundation recipient Reveca Cahue, diagnosed with lupus disease, was accompanied by her family on a tour of the 344th and 341st Training Squadrons July 18.

Ms. Cahue was first enamored with the idea after watching working dogs on an Animal Planet program, saying she was fascinated by "that fact they actually help catch criminals."

"It was great to have been given the opportunity to see the dogs and (help with their training), too," the 16-year-old Uvalde native said about her day at Lackland.

But wish granter Linda Patillo, Make-A-Wish volunteer, said the family was originally scheduled for a lunch at T.G.I. Friday's before departing on a Nickelodeon cruise until restaurant employee Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hunt contacted the 37th Training Group.
A chain of e-mails later, Staff Sgt. Joe Brown, 37th Training Wing Protocol, had rallied support within his unit for a visit before the lunch. He said the large number of Airmen who turned out surprised even himself. 

"They came to us a week and a half ago and asked if we would like to help out," Sergeant Brown said. "The 37th TRG commander (Col. Joseph Ramono III) was more than happy to do it."

The day's itinerary included a military working dog demonstration, a visit to the puppy whelping center and tours of a Boeing KC-135, MH-53 Pave Low helicopter and C-130 airplane at the Lackland Training Annex.

A little hesitant after watching trainers lead the 6-month-old military working puppies through patrol training, Ms. Cahue agreed to don the bite sleeve and help with the demonstration. "It was scary at first but once I got comfortable with it, it was cool," she said.

Ms. Cahue especially enjoyed holding the 4-day-old E-litter puppies at the whelping center, providing one with the name Ethan.

"They're very cute," she said. "I have never held a 4-day-old puppy before."

Driving onto the Lack-land Training Annex, 344th TRS Commander Lt. Col. Marc Caudill and a fleet of instructors greeted the convoy in front of the KC-135 before boarding the VIP airplane better known as the Speckled Trout.

"We showed them the business side of the airplane," Colonel Caudill said, following a quick briefing on the airplane's cockpit.

"Reveca sat in the aircraft's command seat and we talked about what it takes to fly this airplane."

"It was exciting to see all the planes and how they work and function," Ms. Cahue said.

The 344th TRS instructors provided additional information on the duties of aircraft personnel. Then, Master Sgt. Miguel Casso, 344th TRS, escorted the guests via Humvee to the tour's last stop at the MH-53 and C-130. 

By the end of the day, Ms. Cahue left with mementos including a personalized flight suit, 344th TRS coin, squadron patches and wings to remember her visit.

Having worked up an appetite, the Cahue family was then ready for T.G.I. Friday's.