Kelly & Kevin: Back from R&R
Firstly THANKYOU to everyone who has been following mine and Kevin’s blog, I’ve been reading the comments you have all left and greatly appreciate them.
It’s been some time now since I last blogged, so be aware that there is plenty to fill you in with, including Kevin becoming racist, moving locations twice and my RnR!
OK… I’ll start off where I left you on “Blog 2”, Kevin and I went on to have a successful first task with our team and have had many more since then. However L/Cpl Lomas (Andy) and his search dog Vaska (Kevin’s arch enemy ironically) beat us to the first find of Herrick 14, TWO in fact!! So WELL DONE guys!!
When we weren’t on the ground or training, Kevin true to form spent much of his spare time terrorising Claire (the Medic) eventually forcing her to move out of our mud hut and into the one next door to us…oops!! I think the final straw was when she walked in and discovered Kevin had chewed a Kevin sized hole in her mosquito net and was laid there fully stretched out on her camp cot eating her teddies!!
The months of April and May brought a few changes such as Pte Gell (Wayne) and Scooby leaving the FOB and SGT Simpson (Simmo aka Fred Flintstone) and his dog Troy replacing them. Kevin and I were also re-validated and passed J.. this involved my Sgt Maj flying in and watching Kevin work to make sure there were no problems. When he arrived I met him off the helicopter and took him to his transit tent where he would stay for the 2 nights he was there… I did try and put him in the D&V tent for a giggle but the FOB manager who is in charge of bed spaces wouldn’t let me (spoil sport!). Oh Kevin turned 2 years old on the 27th of April too and thanks to a very generous woman called Pamela Wright he also received a specially baked birthday cake that she had kindly sent out to us, although this didn’t arrive until the 8th of May which happens to have been my 26th birthday… so it was a win win situation, thanks Pam!!
Now let me tell you about my newly turned racist dog!! It happened half way through our first task. We were sat in the Incident Control Point (ICP) and had been there for a number of hours with many locals walking past with some stopping to watch what we were doing; Kevin was fine with this at first but became increasingly restless as the day went on. In Afghanistan dogs are seen as vermin and are treated cruelly by the locals so it’s always a show stopper whenever a dog is on a patrol, as it shocks the locals to see a dog being walked on a lead or sat with its handler on a task, being stroked etc, not only are the dogs seen as vermin but locals are also extremely scared of dogs too so they find mine and Kevin’s relationship fascinating and disgusting at the same time. Anyway every local that casually approached my team would suddenly stop dead in his tracks and jolt backwards upon seeing Kevin, causing Kevin to jump to his feet and keenly study their suspicious behaviour.
This rapidly escalated from here and Kevin became very protective over my team and the space around us where we rested, meaning he would growl/bark at anyone who approached us who’s scent he didn’t recognise even if this was another ISAF patrol… However Kevin has now honed in on his skills and now associates the Local Afghans distinctive smell and attire to the people with the suspicious behaviour.
This has obviously made it hard when I’m trying to exercise Kevin off lead INSIDE the wire as he would bark at and chase any members of the ANA (Afghan National Army) who we share our FOB’s with. This mixed with their fear and hatred of dogs would make then turn and run immediately which obviously excited Kevin and turned it into a big game of Kevin chasing the ANA and me chasing Kevin, which clearly looked a lot worse than it actually was!!
At the end of May me and my team were flown into a new location, within hours of being told we were moving locations, we were flown to the other side of Helmand. Turned out that the other search team had suffered a number of heat illness casualties so we needed to step up and finish the job. There is plenty of banter between the Working Dog Sqn so I had no hesitation in calling bastion and having the following msg passed onto the dog handler of that team “get well soon L/Cpl Puckett (Stevie) and don’t worry I’m flying into your old location to finish the job you couldn’t” I knew it would put a smile on his face!
So we arrived in our new location and tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible with the little we had. With no mud huts or tents left we set up for the night under that stars and stayed there for the next 3 to 4 weeks. It was extremely tiring at this location in particular as the task we had taken over was the biggest search operation in Helmand to last for about a month which meant we needed to be up and out for first light most mornings and came back in about 2pm as the heat was just too much to operate in, but even then we couldn’t sleep or rest because we had no relief from the heat, even in the shadows your water bottle would be bubbling, from about 9pm onwards was when it was possibly cool enough to sleep. Even though it was exhausting at this location I enjoyed it because I had 3 other dog handlers there to chat and catch up with, this is a rare occasion on tour as you can go your entire tour without seeing any of your friends (colleagues).
On the 10th of June Kevin and I flew back into Camp Bastion by helicopter as I had my RnR from the 13th to the 26th of June!! As soon as we got back into the kennels at Bastion Kevin jumped straight into the pool and would have been more than happy to stay there all night!! After his swim I put him in his kennel and went to have the first proper shower I hadn’t had in over 2 months! Once I had squared all my kit away and scrubbed 2 months’ worth of desert out of my hair I had the best night sleep of my life in my air-conditioned Bastion tent!! Kevin was to spend the next 2 weeks relaxing in his kennel and taking several dunks a day in the swimming pool!
Just before I left for my RnR Kevin wasn’t really eating properly so I checked his teeth over and found that he had chipped one of his incisor’s, looking back I know exactly when Kevin chipped that tooth!! It was when a big red arm weight took his fancy because it resembled a ball, however after he had hurdled across the camp to get it he was largely disappointed to find it was solid metal after clamping his teeth onto it. So the vet arranged for the dentist to come down and take a look turned out his nerve was slightly exposed causing sensitivity when eating and drinking, so Kevin ended up having a cap put onto his tooth!! Well done KEV!!
On the 13th of June I arrived in Brize Norton for the start of my well-deserved 2 week break!! There I was met by my amazing girlfriend Kate who had been extremely patient during my 10 hour delay, once the tears had stopped my dad drove us to his apartment where we were spending the night! Kate and I had so much planned for my RnR including flying out to Mexico to surprise all my family at my brother’s beach wedding as I had managed to keep my RnR dates a secret in order to surprise them all!!
It was an amazing holiday and they all loved the surprise (so they said ha-ha)… beach wedding, swimming with dolphins, and an ultimate week of relaxation with the ones I love, it was perfect!! Exactly how anyone’s RnR should be.
My RnR, like everyone’s ended far too fast and on the 26th of June I flew back into bastion also known affectionately as camp rat city. I spent a week here before going back on the ground; I was able to utilise this time to get some much needed training in with Kevin because on his 2 weeks off he was convinced he had retired!! I was lucky enough to meet a Danish dog handler called Klaus with his dog Edo who is the same breed as Kevin, Klaus has been handling dogs for 17 years and has a mountain of training techniques, so I spent as much time as I could picking his brain and working with him and Edo! Kevin came on leaps and bounds and is working probably the best I have ever seen him! I have introduced him to clicker training which he loves and was doing recalls within the first day! That’s my boy!
I flew out of Bastion on the 6th of July into yet again another location within Helmand, my team were already out on task and didn’t come in until the 9th so I had a good few days to get some good work inside the wire done with Kevin and relax!
I received some bad news about Klaus and Edo the day after I arrived in my new location, they had been involved in an explosion on task involving the Taliban throwing improvised grenades over a wall. Klaus received frag to his back and legs plus a dislocated shoulder, Edo also received frag injuries to his back and legs… Klaus is ok but has been flown back to Denmark to rest and recover, they managed to stabilise Edo but sadly he had to be put to sleep the other day due to his injuries. Although we are all aware of the risk’s we face out here, every time an incident like this happens to a fellow handler the risk all of a sudden become very real all over again.
On the upside we have now broke the back of tour and only have 2 and a half months left to push, so I suppose I should go and check Kevin hasn’t broken out of his kennel and causing mayhem through camp.
Thank you for reading again guys and sorry I left it so long before I managed to get this online.. Take care
Kelly and Kevin xx
… Get well soon L/Cpl Wilkinson and Klaus
… R.I.P Edo, thank you for all you did, sleep tight boy xx