MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight
This story is by Senior  Airman Benjamin Sutton

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.

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.”

913184 MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight

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.

913188 MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight

“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.

913174 MWD Handler Earns AFCAM for Heroism During Firefight

“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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