Working dog handler receives Purple Heart

  • Published
  • By Carl Bergquist
  • Air University Public Affairs
"Today, you have an example of what a truly great NCO can be," said the 42nd Air Base Wing commander to those attending the January and February enlisted promotion ceremony at the Enlisted Club Jan. 31.

Col. Pete Costello referred to Staff Sgt. Robert Brown, a 42nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. Sergeant Brown received a Purple Heart at the ceremony for wounds he received while he and his military working dog Nero were deployed to Iraq.

The colonel said the Purple Heart is the oldest medal in the American military, devised by Gen. George Washington to reward his troops for wounds sustained in battle, and that it was a "very special day" at Maxwell-Gunter. He said it was nice to be able to present the medal at a formal observance.

"Unlike today, many military members coming back don't receive their Purple Heart at a ceremony, but in a hospital bed," Colonel Costello said.

Sergeant Brown said it was also a special day for him, and he felt, "overwhelmed."

"I'm glad I'm back here in one piece, as it could have been a lot worse for us," he said. "I never would have thought my deployment to Iraq would result in a ceremony like this," Sergeant Brown noted.

Sergeant Brown said he was grateful for the assistance Nero gave him during the deployment, but especially on that day. He said he might have been killed if Nero had not warned him of the danger.

Sergeant Brown, who has been in the Air Force about eight years, sustained a concussion and a contusion to his right leg when an improvised explosive device exploded. He and Nero were checking a field in Tahrir City, Iraq, for hidden weapons when Nero alerted to a suspicious object. The object was detonated by a nearby insurgent, and shrapnel struck the sergeant in the head and leg.

Ginger Brown, Sergeant Brown's wife, said she is "very proud" of him and glad he returned safely back home.

"When something like this happens, it makes you reassess your priorities and value and appreciate each other a little more," she said. "I knew about deployments when I married him, and I know he will probably be going back again. And, I will be waiting for him when he returns."

Mrs. Brown said she too loves Nero and is grateful to him for his actions on that day in Iraq. She said being a working dog handler was what her husband always wanted to do in the Air Force, and he has worked with Nero since his arrival at Maxwell.

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