Australian Army special operations military working dog Kuga was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal – thought of as ‘the VC for animals’ – for conspicuous gallantry at a ceremony in Canberra on 26 October 2018.
CAPTION: Corporal Mark Donaldson VC and MWD Odin prepare to accept the posthumously awarded PDSA Dickin Medal on behalf of Special Air Service Regiment military working dog Kuga at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Photo by WO2 R Nyffenegger.
The award was presented by British charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) during a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.
Kuga served with the Special Air Service Regiment from 2008 and was recognised for his actions during a Special Operations Task Group patrol in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, on 26 August 2011.
During the patrol, Kuga alerted his handler to an enemy presence ahead.
Upon being released by his handler to investigate, Kuga crossed a river to expose an enemy ambush position, drawing small arms and heavy machine-gun fire.
Despite being shot five times during the action, Kuga continued to engage the enemy until being recalled by his handler.
Kuga was evacuated by helicopter and treated at a number of coalition medical facilities in Afghanistan and Germany.
Kuga died in Australia in 2012, likely as a result of stress and physical trauma associated with his wounds.
Kuga was nominated for the Dickin Medal by the SASR soldiers of that Special Operations Task Group patrol for his extraordinary courage and dedication to duty, preventing them from entering into an enemy ambush.
PDSA trustee Mary Reilly presented the medal and praised Kuga’s drive and courage in the face of the enemy.
“If it wasn’t for Kuga’s actions that day in Afghanistan, his handler and the Special Operations Task Group patrol would have walked into the enemy ambush, with potentially devastating loss of life,” Ms Reilly said.
“Kuga stood up to the enemy without fear and is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.”
Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, who is a former SASR military working dog handler, accepted the PDSA Dickin Medal on behalf of Kuga and SASR.
“Kuga’s actions that day in Afghanistan were heroic,” Corporal Donaldson said.
“There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that he saved lives and he showed so much loyalty and courage.
“He wouldn’t give up on his mates and doing his job.
“Kuga and the other military working dogs we all served with 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 all the military working dogs who worked alongside us in Afghanistan and every day since.”
Kuga, a Belgian Malinois, is the 71st recipient of the Dickin Medal, and the first Australian dog to receive the award.
The PDSA Dickin Medal was created in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war and has been awarded to 71 individual animals, including two Australian carrier pigeons in World War II.
Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester both thanked Kuga for making the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.
“Our special forces are among the best in the world and stories such as Kuga’s rank right up there with the exceptional work they all did as a team in Afghanistan,” Minister Pyne said.
“The PDSA Dickin Medal is a remarkable award and Kuga’s story adds to its history.
“I thank Kuga for his incredible actions, which ultimately saved lives, and I join those from the special forces community who still mourn his loss.”
. . .