Australian Army special operations soldier Sergeant 'J' with his military working dog 'Kuga' on a Special Operations Task Group at Multi-National Base Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. *** Local Caption *** Australian Army special operations military working dog 'Kuga' from the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) was awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry by British charity the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals in a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Friday, 26 October 2018. Kuga, a Belgian Malinois breed, was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his actions during a Special Operations Task Group patrol in Uruzgan province, southern Afghanistan, on 26 August 2011. Kuga, who was shot five times during his PDSA Dickin Medal action, served with SASR from 2008 until his death from wounds in 2012. The PDSA Dickin Medal was created in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war. It is awarded to animals showing conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Commonwealth armed services or civil defence units. The PDSA Dickin Medal is colloquially referred to as the ‘Victoria Cross for Animals’. Kuga is the first Australian dog and the first Australian animal since World War II to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal. SASR is a key component of Special Operations Command, which is tasked to provide special operations capability in support of Australia’s national interests.

A Military Working Dog who served with the Special Air service Regiment (SASR) in Australia has received the ‘animals Victoria Cross’ for his heroic actions while on duty in Afghanistan in 2011.

Kuga, the Belgian Malinois, and his handler were part of a Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) conducting a mission to capture a senior Taliban insurgent in the Khas Uruzgan district during their second tour together, on 26th August 2011.

Australian Army special operations military working dog Kuga

The unit began patrol after landing by helicopter near a target compound and Kuga was instructed to search for concealed insurgents or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) located along the river’s edge. He indicated an enemy presence and was shot at from close range but persevered so his handler could identify the enemy location. 

Australian Army special operations soldier Sergeant ‘J’ with Kuga

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. 

Kuga swam back across the river when recalled by his handler, who performed emergency first aid and requested a helicopter medical evacuation for him. Kuga was treated in Afghanistan and Germany, before returning to Australia for further treatment and rehabilitation. Kuga passed away in kennels on 24 July 2012, although inconclusive, it’s believed his body succumbed to the stress from the injuries caused at the incident and his death is officially recorded as ‘Died of Wounds’.

Australian Army special operations soldier Sergeant ‘J’ (left) with his military working dog’Kuga preparing for a Special Operations Task Group patrol in Afghanistan.

Kuga, is the first Australian dog to receive the PDSA Dickin Medal in its 75-year history. The world-renowned PDSA Dickin Medal was introduced by PDSA’s founder, Maria Dickin CBE, in 1943. It is the highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military conflict.

Kuga’s posthumous award was accepted by Corporal Mark Donaldson VC  on the regiment’s behalf, along with Kuga’s canine colleague and retired Militairy Working Dog Odin. Corporal Donaldson said, “Kuga’s actions that day in Afghanistan were heroic. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he saved lives. He just wouldn’t give up on his mates and doing his job.

Corporal Mark Donaldson, VC, with Australian Army special operations military working dog ‘Odin’, at the Australian War Memorial

“Kuga and the other military working dogs in Afghanistan saved countless lives, whether they were finding IEDs or tipping us off to an enemy presence before we’d seen them. Kuga’s PDSA Dickin Medal is for the all military working dogs who worked alongside us in Afghanistan and every day since.”

PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin said, “Kuga’s actions undoubtedly saved the lives of his patrol. He took on the enemy without fear, saving his comrades despite suffering serious injury, and is thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.”

Kuga is the 71st recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal and the first Australian dog to receive the honour. Previously, two World War II messenger pigeons serving with the Australian signals Corps were awarded the Medal in February 1947 for their role in Pacific operations.

Images by PDSA 


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