Soldiers and their dogs have been put through their paces ahead of a potential deployment to Afghanistan in the next few weeks.
About 90 soldiers from the 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, based at St George’s Barracks in North Luffenham, are expected to form part of the Explosive Ordnance and Search Task Force, which will go out to Afghanistan in the next few weeks.
The task force is drawn from 15 units across all three services. If deployed, the squadron’s role will be to support the transition in Afghanistan under the command of 1 Mechanised Brigade. If deployed their role will see them training and mentoring the Afghan Security Forces, while also ensuring the safety of British troops on the ground.
The dogs and their handlers have been busy perfecting their role and on Saturday there was a families day at the base where the soldiers’ loved ones got the opportunity to see the dogs being put through their paces.
The working dog teams are highly-trained and will carry out tasks, including patrolling the bases where fellow British soldiers are based, searching vehicles at check points and going out on patrols on the front line to search for weapons, ammunitions and explosives.
Sgt Dave Doble, 34, is among the soldiers due to deploy. This will be his third tour of Afghanistan. He recently joined the Squadron from ATR Pirbright where he spent two years training new recruits.
He said: “ATR Pirbright is where soldiers complete their phase one training. So they learn the basics of soldiering including drill, living in the field, first aid. Once completed they then go on to their phase two training, where they learn their chosen trade.
“Eight members of the squadron that are due to deploy were actually trained by me during their phase one training. So, to see them at the start of their career as they started out, and now to see them well trained and ready to go, well it makes me feel very proud.
“I am confident we are at the mark we need to be to deploy.
“Of course, I am slightly apprehensive but we are well trained and close knit, but all above very professional.”
Cpl Jenny Lockhart, 31, is also preparing to deploy with her dog Todi.
She would be in command of the protection dogs and said of Todi: “He’s a really good dog and very obedient.”
The officer commanding 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, Major Ian Razzell, of the Royal Army Medical Corps said everyone was well prepared for the deployment.
He said: “The soldiers and their handlers have been training in readiness for this potential deployment for the last 12 months.
“They have trained in a full range of environments so I am most confident they are ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
“I am proud of every single soldier. For some of them it will be their first operational tour and of course it will be very hard indeed.
“They are away from home, they have left their families behind and they will be working and living in tough environments.
“They will do a good job there is no doubt about it, they are first rate professional soldiers as well as dedicated handlers.”