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SFS handler, MWD receive Bronze Star

Staff Sgt. Justin Kitts, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Dyngo, 56th SFS MWD, pose for a photo while on foot patrol during their deployment in Afghanistan.  (Courtesy photo)

Staff Sgt. Justin Kitts, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Dyngo, 56th SFS MWD, pose for a photo while on foot patrol during their deployment in Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- After only one year of working together, a 56th Security Forces Squadron duo received the Bronze Star for the tasks they completed during their deployment May 2.

Staff Sgt. Justin Kitts, 56th SFS K-9 handler, and Dyngo, military working dog, played three very important roles during their deployment.

Kitts was directly involved in the planning, coordination and execution of 63 combat missions requiring Dyngo's support in all.

Kitts knowledge and the tactical employment of Dyngo were critical for mission success resulting in more than 1,000 hours spent outside the wire and the discovery and seizure of 370 pounds of explosives and four improvised explosive devices.

"I saw and did just about every task a handler could perform when it comes to combat," Kitts said. "At home we train to find explosives in a safe environment, and on this deployment we were able to put those tools into a real world mission."

Kitts and Dyngo were often left exposed to check for possible threats, while their comrades would follow in relative cover.

The efforts of their meticulous training and planning resulted in reducing the capabilities of Taliban insurgents while contributing to the safety and effectiveness of his patrol, said Lt. Col. Michael Chang, joint operations officer.

Kitts' leadership provided clear, safe routes for numerous dismounted patrols to conduct house-to-house searches. They routed clearances, conducted area security missions and provided safety to more than 30,000 U.S., host nations and coalition forces.

"We train constantly with the dogs to be able to successfully handle any type of mission or situation," said Tech. Sgt. John Pillarella, 56th SFS kennel master. "Kitts and Dyngo have shown that we do engage the enemy, are extremely beneficial to the mission and save lives downrange."

When K-9 handlers receive their MWDs it typically takes about 30 days to form a bond.

The team's bond began in their first meeting at the airport when Kitts picked up Dyngo and formed an amazing relationship in only two weeks, Kitts said.

"What they did is a prime example of what the MWD program is meant to do," Pillarella said. "When we deploy it's our sole purpose to go outside the wire and provide a safe environment for other service members."