DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, DE, UNITED STATES
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. - A lone airman and his service dog responsible for training Afghan forces and keeping Army special operations forces safe from improvised explosive devices, brought home more than just himself and his companion.
Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg, 436th Security Forces Squadron, military working dog handler, was presented the Bronze Star Medal March 4, 2014, for his support of Army special operations forces during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.
Spangenberg was originally awarded the Army Meritorious Service Medal, but it was upgraded to the Bronze Star Medal by Maj. Gen. Austin S. Miller, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, commanding general.
"It was a very humbling experience," said Spangenberg. "I was just doing my job."
As humble as Spangenberg may be, others recognized the importance of the work he accomplished. Spangenberg's support of Army special operations forces in more than 100 combat missions and discovering more than 100 pounds of explosives over a period of four months shows Spangenberg had a unique opportunity and proved he was up to the task, said Lt. Col. Joel Briske, 436th SFS commander.
"I think it is pretty cool that he was a lone airman deployed with Army special operations," said Briske. "He operated at such a level that he was recognized by a two-star general. That doesn't happen often. To have your Army Meritorious Service Medal upgraded to the Bronze Star Medal speaks of his character and his commitment to the combat mission in Afghanistan."
The Bronze Star Medal was presented to Spangenberg for the successful completion of difficult tasks he and his military working dog, Rico, accomplished. Spangenberg and Rico taught more than 300 Afghan local police on counter improvised explosive device tactics and techniques.
"He is experienced and knows his job," said Tech. Sgt. Adam Fike, 436th SFS kennel master and Spangenberg's supervisor. "Getting the Bronze Star Medal is an amazing achievement. Where he was stationed is pretty rough, so I'm glad that he made it back safe and sound and that he was recognized for his accomplishments."
Unfortunately, during Spangenberg's deployment his shoulder was injured and required surgery.
"My shoulder was dislocated after an IED explosion hit our Humvee," said Spangenberg. "I went as long as I could, but after getting back from deployment, I had to get surgery."
Because of his injury, Spangenberg is no longer assigned to Rico. But, this hasn't stopped him from continuing to train others who have taken his place.
"Because of his injury, he is in charge of training," said Fike. "With his deployment experience, he is teaching our guys different techniques to search. The good news is he should be back to dog handling in the summer."
Spangenberg said working with the Army special operations forces was life-changing and said he thoroughly enjoyed his deployment.
"It was awesome. It is what we dream of as K-9 handlers," said Spangenberg. "I did and saw a lot of cool things, as well as having fun while doing my job."
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