We do not hear and know very much about animals used in war.
Kuno is a three-year-old Belgian Malinois who has retired from service as a military working dog with the Special Boat Service. He retired after injuries sustained while battling al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2019.
Now, Kuno is set to become the 72nd recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. It is the highest honor a military animal can receive.
In May 2019, the unit that Kuno served with was deployed on an operation to combat al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They were immediately met with gunfire as they exited the helicopter. The unit managed to find cover without sustaining any injuries. They then entered the compound that was the target of their operation and met an al Qaeda insurgent. Kuno was released by his handler and he subdued the insurgent before leading his handler to several hidden caches of weapons and explosives in the compound.
As the team worked their way to another set of buildings, they came under machine gun and grenade fire. An enemy insurgent with night vision goggles was targeting the team. He kept them pinned down until Kuno’s handler released him to attack the insurgent.
Kuno’s speed and aggressiveness surprised the insurgent who fired wildly as Kuno attacked. Despite being struck by bullets in both rear legs, Kuno subdued the attacker and kept him on the ground while the rest of the team entered the courtyard, captured the insurgent and cleared the rest of the building.
Kuno was given first aid on the scene as well as life-saving aid on the helicopter after the unit was extracted. He had to have one paw amputated to prevent infection. Despite the injuries and the long recovery time, his spirits remained high and he was able to recover and enjoy his retirement in the west country.
To aid that recovery and restore his mobility, Kuno became the first military working dog in Britain to receive custom made prosthetics. He is said to be able to run and jump in the lightweight devices.
To see even more of Kuno, you can follow him on Instagram here.
The Dickin Medal is a large bronze medallion inscribed with the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” in a laurel wreath. The ribbon has green, dark brown, and sky blue stripes which represent water, earth, and air for the naval, land and air forces of the British military. The medal is named after Maria Dickin who founded the PDSA in 1943. It is the highest honor any animal can receive while serving the British military in confict.
To date, the award has been bestowed upon 34 dogs, 32 WWII messenger pigeons, 4 horses and one cat.
According to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, it is clear that Kuno saved the lives of British troops that day and without his invaluable aid, the mission would have ended very differently. As a result of Kuno’s actions, the raid “was one of the most significant achievements” against al Qaeda in many years.
Wallace also stated that Kuno’s story serves to remind us all of the contributions of both the soldiers and the military dogs and also to the care that the UK Armed Forces provide them.