Hiland Mountain Correctional Center will formally transfer its newest inmate-trained Service Dogs to wounded warriors on February 20th at 1 pm. Bella is a two-year old Black Labrador Retriever who was donated to HMCC as a puppy by a Mat-Su Valley breeder, Byers Peak Labradors. Maddie came to Hiland Mountain as an eight-week old puppy from the Mat-Su Animal Care Shelter. She was spotted by shelter staff for her intelligence and suitability to service dog training.
Bella will be paired with Aaron Willard, who lives in Fairbanks. In 2004 Willard received a commission from the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Wainwright with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He quickly deployed to Iraq, where he was wounded twice, most seriously on the night of October 30, 2006. That’s when Willard and his patrol were ambushed by an explosive projectile, small arms and machine gun fire. As a result of the attack Willard was severely injured and spent three years recovering at Fort Wainwright before medically retiring in August, 2009.
Sgt. John S. Revilak, who is being paired with Maddie, joined the Army in 2004. In June 2007 John, who had been assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was deployed to Afghanistan. On October 11th, 2007 his platoon was ambushed with an IED disabling the lead vehicle of 1st Platoon. Immediately, enemy forces opened up with a volley of RPGs and small arms fire. Revilak’s vehicle caught fire, forcing those inside to exit under heavy enemy fire.
The intensity of the exploding IED resulted in John sustaining a traumatic brain injury which left him in constant pain. Despite that, John remained with his unit for another year until he was reassigned to the San Diego Naval Hospital. John medically retired in February, 2011.
Bella and Maddie are the sixth and seventh service dogs trained by inmate volunteers at Hiland Mountain.