This is the first blog from Captain Joanna Lowe of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. She is working as a vet on the ground in Afghanistan with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
I joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps a little over eighteen months ago with my eyes open – the main roles in which I could expect to be employed were as a Veterinary Officer in a Military Working Dog Squadron, at one of the mounted units or at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray. On tour I was likely to be confined to Camp Bastion catering for the day-to-day needs of the military working dogs and constantly prepared to respond to K9-liners (reports on injured working dogs, based on the normal ‘9-liners’ which report the status of injured troops.)
What actually happened is that I have been detached from my unit and attached to the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) as the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Vet Liaison Officer (LO) for Operation HERRICK 13 – a different ball game altogether. My role is hearts and minds-based, and ultimately aims to support the development of the Afghan veterinary system. But simply providing treatment for the livestock held by local national farmers (mainly sheep, goats and cattle with the odd donkey or camel thrown in for good measure) is just the tip of the iceberg. I have found myself collaborating with a whole host of civilian-run departments within the PRT and investigating the reach of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the veterinary field. Over the past few weeks I have really had my eyes opened to a whole world whose existence I had previously barely acknowledged.
In a conflict such as this, where the key terrain is undisputedly the population, it is hard to understate the importance of the role played by the PRT.