Throughout our history, men and women of the ADF have been recognised for their acts of valour on the battlefield. However, there are other members of our service who have worked alongside our personnel and are seldom acknowledged for their heroic deeds, sacrifices and their everlasting mateship – the military working dogs (MWD) of the ADF.
Thanks to the efforts of Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO), seven retired Air Force MWDs were honoured for their service in the first retirement ceremony at RAAF Base Pearce’s No. 3 Security Forces Squadron (3SECFOR).
The MWDs – Dagger, Digger, Fang, Frenzy, Onyx, Rico and Victory – were awarded a ‘purple poppy’ pet tag, inscribed with their name, and a ‘Thank you for your service’ pack.
Linda Scott, WA ambassador for AWAMO, and OIC 3SECFOR FLTLT Lawrence O’Reilly presented the awards at RAAF Base Pearce.
Ms Scott said: “We discussed the idea with RAAF Base Pearce last year and from there the idea developed into an official ceremony.
“It’s a first for the WA branch of AWAMO and possibly the first for Australia.
“We hope to hold more ceremonies to acknowledge all the retiring military working dogs in WA.”
Corporal (CPL) Nathan Beck, a Military Working Dog Handler, said the ceremony was a great initiative, and although he was more than prepared to take on the costs associated with caring for his friend, he was extremely grateful for the retirement pack presented to his dog Victory.
“The fact AWAMO is not only advocating for the retired dogs but also finding ways to assist with large vet bills is very much appreciated,” CPL Beck said.
“Just last year Victory had a malignant mammary tumour that required surgery and after care.
“Retired military working dogs do not have access to a health card post-service life as we do. My fellow handlers and I appreciate what AWAMO is doing to try and fill that void, after all they have served the ADF faithfully and deserve to be treated as such.” The AWAMO works to educate people about the service given by our MWDs and other animals who have served in operational or mascot roles. Its initial aim was to erect war animal memorials across Australia.
Following a memorial unveiling last year, discussion turned to retired MWDs, whose handlers often take them home to see out their retirement and bear the full expense of caring for their ageing mates.
Unlike their handlers, the animals don’t have government assistance to support them with any health issues following their service, hence the formation of MWD retirement package.
The ‘Thank you for your service’ pack included two 20kg bags of dog food, one year’s supply of worming treatments and an assortment of dog treats and toys.