Army military working dog awarded medal for conspicuous gallantry

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The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence

The Hon Darren Chester MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Minister for Defence Personnel

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Scott Bolitho (Minister Pyne): 02 6277 7800,

Ella Kenny (Minister Pyne): 02 6277 7800,

Whil Prendergast (Minister Chester): 0427 672 815 

Defence Media (02) 6127 1999,

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26 October 2018

Joint media release

  • The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Defence Personnel

Australian Army special operations military working dog ‘Kuga’ has been posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for conspicuous gallantry at a ceremony in Canberra today.

The award was presented by British charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) during the ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Kuga served with the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) from 2008 and is being recognised for his actions during a Special Operations Task Group patrol in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, on 26 August 2011.

During a Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) 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 preventing them from entering into an enemy ambush.

PDSA trustee Ms 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.”

Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP 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,” Mr Chester said.   

Australian Army soldier 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. 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,” Corporal Donaldson said.

“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 breed, is the first Australian dog and first Australian animal since World War II to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

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. Kuga is the 71st recipient of the Dickin Medal, and the first Australian animal to receive the award.


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