A Belgian Malinois was recognized by an Air Force unit recently for her heroics in Afghanistan, becoming the first canine to receive an honor from the 341st Training Squadron.
The 341st is the organization that trains dogs for the military, and the fact that Layka is the first to be honored speaks to the magnitude of the award.
Layka, a 3-year-old, was working with a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan this summer when she was dispatched to inspect a building for explosives and search for enemy combatants.
Before long, Layka was ambushed by an assailant. She received several gunshot wounds to the abdomen and right front leg. Despite her injuries, she protected the lives of her coalition team members by attacking and subduing the assailant.
After the danger was averted, Layka was treated by her handler and a physician's assistant. She was then flown to a hospital for the first of several surgeries, and doctors were eventually forced to amputate her front right leg.
In early July she began rehab at the Daniel Holland Military Working Dog Hospital in San Antonio.
Maj. Jason Harris, 341st TRS commander, presented Layka with a medal of heroism a few weeks ago from the unit's parent organization, the 37th Training Group.
"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."
Layka now lives in Georgia with her handler, who has adopted her because she is no longer able to serve on active duty.