Iill, another of Charleston International Airport’s TSA dogs, has retired.
On Thursday Feb.23, 2017, Iill became a family pet when he was retired from service during a short ceremony in the security checkpoint at CHS. TSA coworkers, airport employees and passengers beamed as the 8-year-old black Lab was honored for his years of service along with his handler Kimberly Barnett.
Iill has always been a TSA dog. Born in July 2008, he was bred by TSA as part of the TSA puppy program and was trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
In keeping with tradition since 2001, Iill is named after Fred Iill, Jr. who was a first responder and captain in the New York City Fire Department Ladder No. 2. Capt. Iill was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
After graduating in 2010 from the TSA puppy training program where he was bred for explosive detection work, Iill was deployed to Puerto Rico. In 2015, he was transferred to Charleston International.
Normally a quiet and reserved dog when at the airport, Iill knew something big was about to happen on Thursday. He sat patiently, leaning against Barnett’s leg as she scratched his head and rubbed his ears, while Bob Baker, assistant federal security director for screening operations, told a gathered crowd about Iill‘s life.
Iill is the second CHS TSA dog to retire this year. Jack, a Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, retired in January.
“Iill will finally be allowed to be a pet and play with the other dogs in the household. He will enjoy his favorite pastime of playing ball for the remainder of his days,” Baker said.
Barnett removed Iill’s working vest, and Iill could not contain his excitement. His tail rapidly wagged and his body shook in unison. He dove head first into a gift bag filled with stuffed toys, balls and treats.
Passengers arriving for flights and airport workers were finally able to pet Iill and give him a good scratch around the ears. Iill relished in the attention, walking around the checkpoint with two, sometimes three, stuffed toys and a pair of tennis balls in his mouth. His tail never stopped wagging.
Iill will live with Barnett, who has taken another job helping to train bomb detection dogs. She also was recognized for her work and lauded as someone who “consistently displays dedication to our mission with her valuable contributions, teamwork and her effort to ensure the safety of the traveling public,”
Afterward, Barnett and Iill headed for the exit. Iill pulling on his leash, going as fast as his feet could move on the slippery terrazzo airport floors.
“He knows,” Barnett said. “He knows he’s retired now.”