Patrol Battles to Save Hero Hound ‘HOBO’ After Grenade Attacks
2 year-old black Labrador Hobo has been in Helmand 2 months saving the lives of countless Soldiers and Marines. He’s trained to sniff out deadly IEDs and lead patrols to safety. But on a recent patrol in Nahr-e Saraj the roles were reversed and it was up to Hobo’s patrol to save his life.
On 21 July 11, Hobo was deployed on an operation in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province when the patrol he was on came under sustained small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades (RMPGs). Led by Hobo, their call sign took cover in a compound to wait for back up but within minutes a grenade had been thrown over the compound wall.
The insurgents had crept up through dense vegetation to the rear of the compound unseen by the patrols sentries. Hobo was resting flat on the ground and the fragmentation flew over his head missing him completely but then a second, third and fourth attack came and Hobo was hit three times.
Captain George Shipman, aged 28 from Plymouth serving with 29 Commando Royal Artillery attached to A Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles was on the patrol that day:
“There were four loud explosions, the dust was kicked up and it was difficult to see what was happening. We realised quickly that Hobo had been hit. He was bleeding heavily from the base of his neck.
I administered a blood clotting agent and applied pressure and a field dressing to stem the bleeding and protect from infection. Hobo remained really calm throughout and just stood there while we treated him”.
With shrapnel wounds to his neck, abdomen and rear end his patrol began giving him life-saving first aid. The heat of the shrapnel had cauterised two of the injuries but he was bleeding heavily after the shrapnel cut straight through his neck.
“I found it hard, harder than treating a human casualty because I couldn’t explain what was going on. Hobo’s become one of us, bounding around the PB all the time, so we’re very fond of him – I’ve also got a 2yr old black lab, Oscar at home and Hobo reminds me so much of him”.
During the incident a few members of the patrol also sustained fragmentation injuries, none of which were serious. As a result a casevac helicopter mission was called in.
Within 50 minutes Hobo was on a PEDRO (the nick name of the dare devil American Black Hawk helicopters that fly into the midst of a fire fight to rescue the wounded) on his way back to the first class veterinary care provided at Camp Bastion which is comparable to the best facilities in UK vet surgeries.
Private Patrick Medhurst-Feeny aged 22 from Bugle, Cornwall is a Veterinary Technician with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps:
“When we got the news we set up for surgery immediately and prepared all of the equipment because we didn’t know the extent of his injuries – so we planned for every eventuality. We met him off the helicopter and got him back to surgery.
We checked his wounds and then got him straight onto fluids because of the blood loss. We needed to make sure he didn’t go into shock which would have caused complications”.
Miraculously, two days later Hobo was astounding the veterinary team.
“‘The first aid administered by Capt Shipman and his patrol meant that no surgery was required. Hobo has recovered fantastically well. He’s an athletic 33kg and is bounding around as if nothing had happened. The prognosis is very positive. He’s in great shape”.
‘We won’t remove the shrapnel from the abdomen. The wound will heal nicely and Hobo will be back out on the ground, detecting IEDs and saving soldiers lives again in no time hopefully in time for his third birthday on the 1st August’.
And indeed Hobo is back with A Company, 2nd Battalion the Royal Ghurka Rifles, Corporal Arjun Limbu:
“It’s great to have him back with us – it’s a real morale boost and he’s running around just like before”.
Dogs such as Hobo are ‘battle inoculated’ against loud noises and explosions. Thanks to this specialist training he won’t suffer any associated trauma and will shortly return to duty on the frontline in Afghanistan.
He is due to return to the UK in November to begin his next role as a demonstration dog.