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Media Release

Defence
MEDIA RELEASE

 
12/11/2009 MECC 386/09
 
 
 
CPA NNN/YY

AUSTRALIAN DOG RETURNS HOME AFTER A YEAR IN THE AFGHAN WILDERNESS

 

An Australian Special Forces Explosive Detection Dog has been found alive and well almost fourteen months after going missing in action (MIA) in Afghanistan. “Sabi” was recovered by a US Soldier at an isolated patrol base in north-eastern Oruzgan last week.

 

The black Labrador was trained to counter the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Oruzgan province.

 

Sabi was declared MIA in September 2008 during the same battle with the Taliban in which SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson won his Victoria Cross.  Sabi was present with her handler when their combined Australian, US and Afghan National Army convoy was ambushed by a numerically superior, well-sited and prepared insurgent force. Nine Australian soldiers, including Sabi’s handler, were wounded during the engagement.

 

The US soldier who recovered her and who can be identified only by his first name, John, was aware his Australian Special Forces mates were missing one of their explosive detection dogs.

 

He said it was immediately obvious that Sabi was no ordinary canine.  “I took the dog and gave it some commands it understood.”

 

John thanked the man who was with Sabi and shook his hand.

 

Sabi spent more than a year in the desolate south of Afghanistan.  Repeated attempts were made by the Special Operations Task Group to discover Sabi’s fate. Sabi was flown to Tarin Kowt to be reunited with one of her Australian Special Forces trainers.

 

The Australian trainer knew instantly it was Sabi.

 

“I nudged a tennis ball to her with my foot and she took it straight away.  It’s a game we used to play over and over during her training,” the trainer said. “It’s amazing, just incredible, to have her back.”

 

Currently in the United Kingdom after meeting Her Majesty the Queen, Trooper Mark Donaldson said Sabi’s return closed a chapter of their shared history.

 

“She’s the last piece of the puzzle,” Trooper Donaldson said. “Having Sabi back gives some closure for the handler and the rest of us that served with her in 2008. It’s a fantastic morale booster for the guys.”

 

At the time of her disappearance Sabi was coming to the end of her second tour of duty in Afghanistan, having previously deployed to Oruzgan in 2007.

 

Sabi had also deployed with the Incident Response Regiment during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

 

Sabi will now undergo a period of quarantine before a decision can be made about the timing of her return to Australia. A veterinary assessment of Sabi’s exposure to diseases has yet to be completed. It is hoped the tests will prove negative and Sabi can return to Australia.  

 

Media note:

 

Imagery is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/opEx/global/opslipper/images/gallery/2009/1112/index.htm

 

Vision of Sabi will be fed to networks at Parliament House at 8:45.

 

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

 

 
 

Issued by Ministerial and Executive Coordination and Communication,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6127 1999 Fax: 02 6265 6946
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