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There’s a New Sergeant in Town!


U.S. Army Promotes Walter Reed Bethesda Facility Dog Truman Naranjo

By Leigh Culbert

WRNMMC Command Communications​

Excitedly wagging his tail, posing for pictures and showing off a few tricks, 4-year-old Sgt. Truman Naranjo worked a crowd of several dozen Walter Reed Bethesda dignitaries, staff, volunteers, patients and fellow furry friends during a July 11, 2018 promotion ceremony in his honor.


The chocolate English Labrador Retriever was promoted from an Army specialist to sergeant by the U.S. Army for demonstrating his exemplary ability to service at greater levels of authority as a trained Military Hospital Facility Dog.


Ideally held in the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where patients receive occupational and physical therapy, occasionally with support from therapy canines, Truman’s promotion ceremony proved to leave a paw print on the hearts of those present.


“Regardless of how busy we get delivering complex care, we take time to celebrate major milestones surrounded by our family,” said WRNMMC’s Assistant Chief of Staff, Army Lt. Col. Jason Silvernail. “Our facility dogs go through a very rigorous training program that involves partnerships with handlers (many whom are active duty service members – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps). The level of oversight and expertise devoted to our program is a world-class standard.”


Sgt. Truman is part of a six-member team of facility dogs currently on duty at WRB. Collectively, they average 2,500 contacts and more than 200 working hours per month. Their motto is to “change lives by working together to keep the patients and staff at the center of everything” they do. It is a testament to the daily impact they are making both professionally and personally.


“It’s hard to put this program into words . . . in any amount of words,” said WRB Facility Dog Handler, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Steven Hutchins. “Seeing the way patients appreciate what we’re able to do and how the dogs are able to affect them so deeply in some of the most vulnerable states they’ve ever been in, is touching. It makes you warm and fuzzy inside.”


Also caring for an 8-month-old Pomeranian Huskey mix, Hutchins added the lessons dogs like Sgt. Truman are teaching him.


“He’s a ‘pomskey’ and he’s crazy,” laughed Hutchins. “He has nowhere near the manners that these guys do but it makes me appreciate them a little more seeing how well behaved they are. I can definitely say this program has made me grow as a dog owner. I’ve learned a lot and I continue to learn every day, appreciating the emotional side of everything that goes on here at the hospital.”


And, leadership could not agree more . . .


“The great thing about promotions is people think of them as rewards – usually because it means more money – but I don’t think we’re paying our facility dogs in anything but treats and I don’t think they’re going up now that we’ve made Truman a SGT,” joked Silvernail. “I’m privileged to be able to serve and witness this kind of dedication to patients and staff. It makes me proud.”


The ceremony concluded with refreshments including cake (for human guests), doggy ice cream and of course – treats! Hats off to you, Sgt. Truman. HOOAH!​