JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- A Belgian Malinois became the first military working dog honored by the 341st Training Squadron for her heroic actions while assigned to a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan.
Layka, an almost 3-year-old female, was recognized Sept. 12 at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas, for saving several Coalition Forces team members during a June 4 special operations mission.
Layka had been dispatched to clear a building of explosives and help look for enemy combatants after a brief fire fight.
During her search, the dog was ambushed by one of the assailants. Layka received multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen and a limb, which later had to be amputated.
Severely wounded, she attacked and subdued the assailant, protecting the lives of her handler and other coalition team members behind her.
Once the area was secured, Layka's handler and a physician's assistant began treating the injured canine. Layka was then flown to a theater hospital for the first of several surgeries, eventually losing her right front leg. She arrived in San Antonio in early July for rehabilitation at the Daniel Holland Military Working Dog Hospital.
"This has never been done before by us, but we wanted to thank Layka," said Maj. Jason Harris, 341st TRS commander, who presented the dog with a medal of heroism from the unit's parent organization, the 37th Training Group.
The squadron provides trained military working dogs used in patrol, drug and explosive detection, and other specialized mission functions by the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
"The medal is unofficial because no decoration exists for military working dogs, but we felt Layka deserved recognition," Harris said. "What these dogs do, day in and day out, is phenomenal. They do save lives.
"Layka was shot and still attacked the person shooting her. She's been through a lot, and what she did is nothing less than heroic."
Following the ceremony, Layka was flown to Georgia to be reunited with her handler, who is still on active duty.
No longer able to serve because of the injuries, Layka has been adopted by her handler, who cannot be identified for reasons of security.
"He's very excited to get her and thankful he had her that day (in Afghanistan)," Harris said. "Layka is very handler-protective, which led to what she did over there."
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Null, the 341st TRS military working dogs adoptions coordinator, said MWDs are invaluable to the armed services.
"She surprised the terrorist, who was waiting to lay down fire on the team. I heard from people on the mission that if Layka hadn't reacted like she did, there was a potentialfor multiple casualties," Null said. "Layka needed to be recognized for her sacrifice."