PDSA Dickin Medal Citation: Kuga, Special Operations Military Working Dog
Kuga, Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD)
Special Air Service Regiment, Australian Army
PDSA Dickin Medal
For outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in Afghanistan as part of the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) during Operation Slipper, Khas Uruzgan, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
Australian special operations military working dog (SOMWD) Kuga, a Belgian Malinois, was born on 23 April 2007. Kuga began his development training with the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in January 2008, aged eight months.
He was teamed with his handler in April 2009 and, in June 2010, they were deployed to Afghanistan on their first tour, where Kuga performed exceptionally well with his endless drive to work and courage being well recognised.
On 26 August 2011, during Kuga’s second tour, Kuga and his handler were part of an SOTG troop element conducting a counter-leadership mission to capture a senior Taliban insurgent in the Khas Uruzgan district.
After landing by helicopter near a target compound, the unit began their patrol. Kuga and his handler were located on the left flank of the patrol line, next to the river. Kuga was sent forward by his handler to search for concealed insurgents or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that might have been located along the river’s edge. As the patrol moved closer to the target compound, Kuga indicated an enemy presence and moved down towards the river.
As Kuga entered the water and swam across the river to the opposite bank, he was engaged and injured by bursts of automatic small-arms fire. His handler moved into position to support Kuga while he continued to swim, undeterred, by the close-range fire. After reaching the bank, he charged towards a small tree line where his handler was able to identify the enemy’s location and witnessed an insurgent firing at Kuga at close range.
While apprehending the insurgent, Kuga was shot again, causing him to lose his grip on the enemy.
During the incident, Kuga was shot five times: twice in the ear, once in the toe, once in the cheek (which exited through the neck) and once in the chest, which exited the shoulder and broke his upper-left leg. Kuga also received shrapnel wounds to his lower spine.
Despite his injuries and without the risk of exposing the patrol to enemy fire, Kuga swam back across the river when recalled by his handler, who administered emergency first aid and requested a helicopter medical evacuation for him. Kuga was medically evacuated and was subsequently treated through coalition medical facilities in Afghanistan and Germany, before returning to Australia for further treatment and rehabilitation.
Sadly, Kuga passed away in kennels on 24 July 2012 and, although inconclusive, it was believed that his body succumbed to the stress placed upon him due to the injuries he sustained in the incident. Kuga’s death is officially recorded as ‘Died of Wounds’.
If it wasn’t for Kuga’s actions in the early detection of the concealed enemy position, his drive and courage in the face of enemy fire, both Kuga’s handler and the patrol would have walked into the enemy ambush with potentially devastating loss of life.
For Kuga’s unstinting bravery and life-saving actions, he is a worthy recipient of the 71st PDSA Dickin Medal.
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