U.S. Air Force awards Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th SFS military working dog handler, and his dog Troll take a break after a village clearing operation in June 2012. Wilson and Troll primarily worked throughout the Kandahar province of Afghanistan assisting coalition forces with explosives detection assistance. (Courtesy photo)

MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight

I particularly enjoyed this story because it showcases just how “joint” the military working dog community really is, especially in Afghanistan. Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army, it simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that handler and dog. Our troops walking the ground simply want an explosive detecting dog team on their patrol. The service component listed on their name tape is irrelevant.

This story is by Senior  Airman Benjamin Sutton

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho – The helicopter lands in a  small poppy field under the cover of darkness and a figure emerges from it with  his four-legged companion by his side.

Even though it’s the middle of the  night, Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson and his military working dog Troll, quickly  begin to sweep the area for threats while the other members of the task force  file out – then the chopper is gone.

This was day one of what would  become a four-day mission, testing the skill, resolve and training of one unique  MWD team.

“Our primary purpose while conducting the air assault mission  was explosives detection assistance while my Army counterparts were setting up a  police station on the outskirts of a village,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson,  366th Security Forces Squadron MWD handler. “Taliban insurgents had been  terrorizing locals in that area for months so we had to get in there and help  those people. Troll and I were responsible for getting the ground elements where  they needed to be safely, so they were able to engage enemy positions as well as  clearing areas for supply drops and evacuations.”

Military Working Dog Troll waits for his turn during a demonstration for a local Boy Scout troops, April 1, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Troll recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and is scheduled to deploy again soon. (Courtesy photo)

Military Working Dog Troll waits for his turn during a demonstration for a local Boy Scout troops, April 1, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Troll recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan and is scheduled to deploy again soon. (Courtesy photo)

The team led the Joint  Task Force and Afghan National Army soldiers through more than two miles of  improvised explosive device infested poppy fields and extremely rough terrain in  order to safely reach their final objective.

“While moving through the  fields toward our objective, Troll responded to areas where there were  explosives buried so we were forced to change our route multiple times,” said  Wilson. “Just before dawn we arrived in a suitable location and set up a strong  point.”

Next, the decision was made to conduct a raid on a compound which  intelligence suggested had explosives, weapons, enemy-intelligence as well as  two high-value targets.

“As we approached the building we immediately  began taking fire from the enemy,” said Wilson. “We returned fire and continued  to raid the building. Once inside, Troll responded to an explosive device which  we quickly secured along with everything else.”

During this extensive  search, Troll showed aggressive interest in an area under a mattress which  revealed a hidden compartment where the two high-value targets were hiding and a  weapons cache containing six AK-47 assault rifles, nine pressure plates and 20  pounds of homemade explosives.

“After the explosive ordnance disposal  guys showed up we went outside to conduct an exterior search with a fellow  coalition member,” said Wilson. “All of a sudden, he was struck in the chest by  a bullet from an enemy sniper. I immediately regained control of Troll and  pulled the guy to a safe spot clear of the sniper. Another soldier came and  helped me get him inside so the medics could begin treatment.”

With  injured personnel needing immediate medical evacuation, Wilson and Troll now  were responsible for clearing a landing zone for the helicopter.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th SFS military working dog handler, and his dog Troll pause for a photo before heading out on a mission in the Kandahar province during June 2012. The team led the Joint Task Force and Afghan National Army soldiers through more than two miles of improvised explosive device infested poppy fields and extremely rough terrain in order to safely reach their final objective. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th SFS military working dog handler, and his dog Troll pause for a photo before heading out on a mission in the Kandahar province during June 2012. The team led the Joint Task Force and Afghan National Army soldiers through more than two miles of improvised explosive device infested poppy fields and extremely rough terrain in order to safely reach their final objective. (Courtesy photo)

“Our  tactical air controllers called for medical evacuation for the guy who was hit  so we went back outside with a four-person security element and immediately we  came under fire,” said Wilson. “We could tell it was a two or three person group  attacking us. Troll and I ran 50-meters to the edge of the compound and began  clearing the area while the security element engaged the insurgents.

“As  much as I wanted to engage the enemy personally, my role was to utilize Troll  and clear the explosives from the area which were threatening our forces,” he  continued.

Heavy small-arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and sniper  fire made the tactical search of a nearby field extremely dangerous for the MWD  team.

“The fire-fight was getting intense – a few times I clearly  remember rounds impacting between Troll and I or snapping through the air by our  heads,” said Wilson. “Those situations are difficult because I need to help get  the casualty out but at the same time, keeping Troll safe is one of my primary  concerns as a handler. He is such a valuable asset in keeping the entire team  safe.

“For any handler this kind of mission is exactly what we want to be  out supporting,” he continued. “It’s really the true test of being able to go  out and utilize our dog to bring people home safe.”

After approximately  two hours of harassing fire, the injured had been evacuated and the fight  finally ended.

“I found out the firefight only lasted a couple of hours  but it seemed like it took a lifetime,” said Wilson. “It’s an intense and  dynamic situation where a lot is going on. There’s gunfire all around, people  are running and screaming, helicopters are flying in and close-air support  aircraft are dropping rounds nearby and you realize; this is real and I have a  job to do.”

That kind of responsibility and dedication to mission success  was noticed by 366th SFS leadership upon Wilson’s return to MHAFB.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Bodge, 366th Security Forces Squadron commander awards Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th SFS military working dog handler, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, Feb. 25, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Wilson received the medal for his actions while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Bodge, 366th Security Forces Squadron commander awards Staff Sgt. Robert Wilson, 366th SFS military working dog handler, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, Feb. 25, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Wilson received the medal for his actions while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Courtesy photo)

“Wilson is the kind of noncommissioned officer whom you can give any task and  know it will get done right, the first time, ahead of time, every time,” said  Chief Master Sgt. Chris Bostrom, 366th SFS security forces manager. “He cares  deeply about his unit and has a passion for the MWD section. We are all proud of  him and MWD Troll and are glad to see them get the recognition they  deserve.”

Of course, Wilson himself doesn’t think he deserves  recognition.

“I’m honored to receive the Air Force Combat Action Medal  but I realize that I fell back on my training and just did my part to make the  mission a success,” said Wilson. “I’m glad we were able to keep the other  members of the task force safe and get those injured personnel evacuated  quickly.”

Congratulations to this fabulous working dog team!

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2 thoughts on “MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight

  1. Jani Muhlestein

    What a great story. And how horrible it could have been. I am more and more convinced that these guys have angels on their side, Kevin. It’s the only explanation for why they survive as frequently as they do.

    And what a gorgeous picture of Honza! I think it captures both his dignity and his sweetness. Truly spectacular. What a handsome boy.

    I hope you’re liking your new job. And I hope that an angel boy is happy and healthy.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Jani. thank you! When you go out into sector on patrol or any other mission you roll the dice….every single time. You just hope that you don’t roll snake eyes.

      Everyone is good….just started my new job yesterday….now to figure this all out! :-)

      Reply

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