Kelly and Kevin
Hi my name is L/Cpl Wolstencroft (Kelly) I am 25 years old and I have been in the Army for 4 years as a dog handler for the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. I studied Animal Care/Management for 4 years at Myerscough College before I joined up in 2007 and was posted to 103 Military Working Dog SQN in Germany where I am currently still based. My first tour of Afghanistan (Herrick 9) was in 2008/9 where I was a Vehicle Search (VS) Dog handler. This time around I have deployed on Herrick 14 as a High Assurance Search Dog (HASD) handler and my Dog is called “Kevin” who may I add is the most mischievous dog in the whole of Helmand!! I’m sure you will agree after reading all of his antics which are bound to end up on my blog throughout our tour together! If he isn’t breaking into my locker and ripping up every T-Shirt I brought out here with me, you’ll be sure to find him dragging one of the C-IED searchers across an ICP by their goggles. We have been a team for the past 8 months and have previously deployed to Jordan for an MRX in December last year so like true partners in crime we know each other well and know what annoys one another… although this doesn’t stop him doing any of them!
Midnight on Saturday the 5th of March 2011 we deployed from Germany together to start the gruelling journey to Afghanistan on a C17. We arrived in Camp bastion on Sunday night on the 6th at 20:15 where we were met by 104 SQN (the SQN we were to take over from), who took Kevin and the rest of the dogs to the kennels while we sorted ourselves out into bed spaces etc. After doing the normal arrivals paperwork I got my hands on a SAT phone and managed to give my Girlfriend Kate and my Mum Janet a quick call to let them know all was well.
The next morning I woke up and we went straight to the kennels to exercise the dogs, it was strange walking through Bastion again and seeing how much this place has grown since the last time I was here in 2008/9, we only had Bastion 1 back then and Bastion 2 was still under construction and mainly occupied by other nations, now in 2011 Bastion 2 is fully formed and Bastion 3 is established and growing by the day! As I walked around I seen things that were still in the same places that they were on Herrick 9, like the old kennels and the cook houses (tents) which was also quite strange because once I finished my tour back then I kind of put this place to the back of my mind, while all the time it’s all still been here and getting used in the same way while I was back home in barracks, on leave or on holiday… but it’s plain to see that even tho we had left, our job here was/is far from over! So here I am again to start the 6month and 21day tour all over again!
The next few days 7th-13th we attended RSOI where we were updated on all the recent threats outside the wire etc, RSOI was what i was dreading as it was death by power point on my last tour but if I’m honest even though I was tired for the first week, the RSOI package was excellent and I found myself very interested in most of the briefs! However I was still itching to get RSOI behind me so I could concentrate on starting work with Kevin and seeing how he would cope with the desert conditions and heat.
On the 10th of March 2011 we got up at 0300 and paraded on the Flight Line to say our goodbyes to Liam (L/Cpl Tasker) and pay our respects as his coffin was carried past us, up the ramp and onto the plane. The last post was played and this was when most people broke down, myself included. Then the tail closed and we marched away. When I looked over my shoulder as I walked off the flight line and the engines were powering up, it really hit me that Liam was gone. Saying bye to Liam and cracking on with work the very same day was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but we had no choice, if the dogs were going to be ready in time for 104 SQN to leave and finish their gruelling tour, we HAD to get on with it!!
It’s a few weeks on from when we first arrived here now and things are starting to come together, the dogs are slowly but surely getting used to the change of climate and the guys have adapted well to working in the heat, although trying to train dogs in this heat can be quite testing, esp if your dog’s name is Kevin!! However the scope for training facilities for the dogs here in Bastion are excellent, with a little imagination and knowing the right people you can have a training session with your dog which actually mimics to a tee the kind of searches you will be tasked to conduct outside the wire and this is filling the guys with confidence in their dogs. Basically if your dog can do it in here, then they can sure as hell do it out there!!
As I write this it’s the 30th of March 2011 and 104 Sqn have returned back to the UK for some much needed leave and 103 Sqn have taken over operational duties here in Afghanistan. Most of the guys are licenced with their dogs now and out on the ground (outside the wire) doing what they do best and living by big boy rules (sat in a FOB/PB wearing tailored hats, shorts, flip flops, topping up their tans with no suncream on and growing as much facial hair as physically possible) while waiting for their next tasking.
Kevin and I and a few other teams on the other hand are still in Camp Bastion doing some extra dog training and living by what is known as “Camp Rat Rules”, wearing factor 50 and untailored floppy hats, well I’m wearing factor 50 as my untailored floppy hat gives enough shade for Kevin to utilise too! Big boy rules are within arms reach though as the dogs are looking good and if Kevin pulls his socks up and stops locking himself in iso containers and just being “kevin” in general, then we should be licenced in no time.
Hopefully the next time I write my blog Kevin and I should be licenced, tanning ourselves and getting massive in a FOB or PB somewhere in Helmand, wish us luck…
Kelly and Kevin xx