In probably a first, the elite commando force National Security Guard has recommended its dog ‘Rocket’ along with slain officer Lt Col Niranjan and two others for military gallantry medals for their role in eliminating terrorists who attacked the Pathankot Airbase early this year.
Officials said while the specially trained canine has been recommended for a ‘Sena medal’, Lt Col Niranjan E K who was killed while sanitising a terrorist’s booby-trapped body has been recommended for a ‘Shaurya Chakra’ along with two other commandos.
The two-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois dog and his handler have been recommended for bravery decoration by the NSG headquarters for displaying ‘raw courage and dedication to duty’ in the face of extreme threat and danger. Rocket had walked into a burning airmen billet on the direction of his master and brought back a pouch that indicated presence of militants inside.
A senior official said, Rocket’s paws got singed but that did not deter him from following the directions of his master also called the handler.
“While there have been few instances when Army dogs have been honoured with military medals, this is the first for the NSG which was established in 1984 as the federal contingency force,” they said.
A final decision will however be taken by a Union Home Ministry-appointed committee which clears names of recipients of these medals. The list is expected to be finalized before the next Independence Day.
Rocket is one of the most trusted four-legged troopers of the NSG’s K-9 (canine) squad.
The squad is deployed along with commandos during counter-terror and counter-hijack operations.
Officials said apart from Rocket, a similar recommendation has been made for the second-highest peacetime gallantry medal for Niranjan, commanding officer of the NSG’s bomb disposal squad, who was killed while sanitising a terrorist’s body.
The NSG had said it lost the experienced and brilliant counter-improvised explosive device officer to a deadly booby trap as the terrorists had used an innovative technique whose antidote was not included in the Standard Operating Procedure of the ‘black cat’ commandos force.
Niranjan’s lungs got punctured due to the impact of the blast of a grenade that was kept in the pocket of a slain terrorist and the officer died before being taken to hospital.
The Pathankot attack that took place on the intervening night of January 1-2 claimed the lives of seven security personnel while four terrorists were killed by the NSG and other security personnel.
While the NSG has maintained six terrorists were involved in the attack, including two in the airmen billet which they brought down using heavy explosives, according to the NIA, it so far has proof of presence of only four militants whose bodies were later recovered.