Hero Military Working Dog awarded animals’ Victoria Cross

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A retired Military Working Dog (MWD), who suffered life-changing injuries while supporting British Forces fighting Al Qaeda, has been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty.

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During the 2019 operation, four-year-old Belgian Shepherd Malinois, Kuno, and his handler were deployed in support of specialist UK and host nation forces on a compound raid against a well-armed and aggressive enemy when they came under attack.

Pinned down by grenade and machine-gun fire from an insurgent, the assault force was unable to move without taking casualties. Without hesitation, Kuno charged through a hail of gunfire to tackle the gunman, breaking the deadlock and changing the course of the attack, allowing the mission to be completed successfully.

During the assault Kuno was wounded by bullets in both back legs. He was given life-saving treatment by his handler and by medics in the back of a helicopter.

His injuries were so severe he required several operations before he was stable enough to fly back to the UK. Sadly, part of one of Kuno’s rear paws had to be amputated to prevent life-threatening infection.

But now he is thriving in retirement after becoming the first UK MWD to be fitted with custom-made prosthetic limbs.

Kuno was formally presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – via a virtual presentation today (24 November 2020) by the vet charity’s Director General. Kuno has become the 72nd recipient of the prestigious honour; joining a line-up of brave dogs, horses, pigeons and a cat.

To meet Kuno and watch him receive his PDSA Dickin Medal visit: www.pdsa.org.uk/kuno  

Discussing the award, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Kuno is a true hero.  His actions that day undoubtedly changed the course of a vital mission, saving multiple lives in the process. And despite serious, life changing injuries, he performed his duty without faltering.

“For this bravery and devotion to duty, we are honoured to welcome him as the latest recipient of the PDSA Dickin.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I’m delighted that Kuno will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal. It is testament to his training, tireless bravery and devotion to duty which undoubtedly saved lives that day.

“I am very proud of the role our military working dogs play on operations at home and abroad. Kuno’s story reminds us of the lengths these animals go to keep us all safe.”

Kuno’s story

In 2019, Kuno deployed as a Canine Protection and Detection dog in direct support of specialist UK and host nation forces. Operating in mountainous, unforgiving and dangerous areas, Kuno had conducted 16 operations over a 5-month period. He was a pivotal member of the team and always held on high alert. His role was to detect explosives, find hidden weapons and incapacitate the enemy if so ordered. Where he led, the team were happy to follow, safe in the knowledge that he had cleared the route.

In May 2019, Kuno deployed on an operation. The enemy was expected to be well armed, well prepared and willing to fight to the death. Kuno and his handler were among the first off the helicopter. As they raced across the open ground towards the compound, they immediately came under a burst of machine-gun fire. Miraculously, no one was injured. The assault team entered the compound, where Kuno was released to incapacitate an insurgent. He did so successfully, and then switched focus to detection, soon discovering a variety of hidden weapons and explosives in the compound. 

Kuno returned to his handler and the team continued their mission, moving towards another set of buildings. Suddenly, several grenades detonated in close proximity to the team and a burst of machine-gun fire came through a doorway adjacent to the force. Another enemy insurgent, equipped with Night Vision equipment, had concealed himself in a compound courtyard and was shooting at the assault force as they approached. Pinned down by accurate fire, the assault force was unable to move without sustaining casualties. Kuno’s handler, confident in the dog’s ability, relied on him to break the deadlock. Kuno did not hesitate and raced through the doorway to attack the insurgent. Surprised by the speed and aggression of Kuno’s assault, the insurgent fired wildly into the darkness at the shape bounding towards him.  Unfortunately, several rounds found their mark, and Kuno received bullet wounds to both hind legs.  Undeterred, and barely breaking stride, Kuno launched himself at the insurgent, biting his arm and wrestling him to the ground. The insurgent was quickly incapacitated, but despite his wounds, Kuno continued to attack to maintain the advantage. Kuno’s actions had altered the course of the battle; the assault force swiftly entered the courtyard, neutralised the insurgent and cleared the remainder of the building. Only then did Kuno relent.

Kuno was given immediate first aid, and was evacuated with the assault force, receiving life-saving care on the back of the helicopter. His injuries were severe; one bullet narrowly missed a main artery and he required several lifesaving operations in theatre before he was stable enough to return the UK. Kuno’s injuries have proven life-changing and his rear paw could not be saved and was soon amputated. His loyalty, upbeat character and courage were ever-present through a prolonged period of rehabilitation and, despite his injuries, he has recovered well and is in good spirits and health.

Kuno was a most invaluable team member. His instinctive courage and determination unlocked the stalemate and undoubtedly saved the lives of multiple coalition soldiers. The operation resulted in the most significant success against Al Qaeda for several years; Kuno was fundamental in this. His recovery is on-going and he has been retired as a MWD. Kuno’s actions during this operation, and throughout his career, are utterly deserving of the PDSA Dickin Medal.  

PDSA Dickin Medal

The world-renowned PDSA Dickin Medal was introduced by PDSA’s founder, Maria Dickin CBE, in 1943. She believed that, if animals were recognised for their heroic actions, it would help to raise their status in society, ensuring they were better treated.

The Medal is the highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military conflict. Kuno has become the 72nd recipient; recipients include 35 dogs, 32 World War II messenger pigeons, four horses and one cat. For more information about the previous recipients visit www.pdsa.org.uk/Medals   

PDSA is the UK’s veterinary charity, providing free and reduced-cost veterinary care to the pets of people in need. PDSA believes no pet should suffer due to their owner’s financial hardship, and as the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic impact the country’s economy the charity predicts more people than ever before will turn to them for help. To find out more about how you can help PDSA care for these vulnerable pets visit www.pdsa.org.uk.  

See Kuno receive his PDSA Dickin Medal here: www.pdsa.org.uk/kuno  

Byline:Sgt Jimmy Wise  
Credit:UK Ministry of Defence 2020  
Source:RAF  
Copyright String:UK MOD © Crown copyright 2020
Byline Title:Defence Photographer  
Caption Writer:Harland Quarrington  
Headline:Hero Military Working Dog awarded animals Victoria Cross  

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