In her second blog, Lance Corporal Kelly Wolstencroft writes about moving out to her Forward Operating Base, and the latest antics of her working dog, Kevin.
It’s now been a good couple of weeks since we last blogged and a fair bit has happened, so let me bring you up to speed.
Firstly on 5 April, Kevin and I went for our licence. This involves a few test scenarios given by a RESA (Royal Engineer Search Advisor) and my own Sergeant Major, which we have to pass as a team before we are allowed “out on the ground”. At this point Kevin had been working like a dream for a good few days now so I was sure that he was due a “Kevin” day at any time! However we passed the morning search with flying colours and broke for lunch at midday before our afternoon scenario. At 1300 Kevin and I were first up for the final scenario. As I walked towards the RESA, Sergeant Major and my own Sergeant I noticed that Kevin was acting like Kevin and pulling towards them in an eager fashion. As I reached them the RESA came over to brief me on the following search, while being briefed I realised Kevin was no longer pulling, instead he was indicating on the RESA’s bag telling me that he had a bomb in it! I tried to ignore him and set up for the task in hand (in the opposite direction to the RESA’s bag) but despite my best efforts I couldn’t unfocus Kevin from the bag to which end I asked the RESA if I could let Kevin have a good sniff of his bag to satisfy his curiosity otherwise he would be unfocused on the task. The RESA had no problems with this at all so I turned Kevin around and allowed him to investigate the bag. I should have known better! Kevin sunk his teeth into the his bag and started to shake it from side to side as if it was his chew toy until I managed to wrestle it from him! Luckily the RESA saw the funny side of it, as do most when it comes to Kevin. Luckily he went on to do a flawless search resulting in us passing our licensing and we are now ready to crack on with our tour!
On 12 April Kevin and I went to Camp Bastion to get a helicopter out to our new location for the next couple of months. Private Pryce was also on the same helicopter with his MWD (military working dog) – Titch – as he was going to be based just 1km from me in another FOB. Kevin doesn’t mind helicopters – in fact I’d say he quite likes them, it’s the waiting around he doesn’t like and this brings out his mischievous side. As the helicopter landed myself and Kevin along with about 12 other soldiers got our kit together to get on, however just at this point in time Kevin decided he wanted to play tug of war with my bergen whilst I tried to get it on my back. This wasn’t the easiest of games since I was wearing body amour weighing in at about 15kg, my rifle and the bergen alone weighing about 40kg! Unable to fight him off due to all the weight and bulk I walked (struggled) onto the helicopter with Kevin trying to pull us both back off! A short while later we landed in our FOB and as we got off, Corporal King and his MWD – Casper – got on to return to Bastion. We were met by Private Gell and his MWD – Scooby – who then showed me and Kevin our bed space and gave us a quick tour of the FOB.
There are currently 2 other females in this FOB so the 3 of us and Kevin are living in a small mud hut as this FOB used to be an old Afghan compound. We have been here a few days now and have fully settled in and Kevin has introduced himself in a number of ways including diving on the female medic (Clare) while she was in bed causing her, Kevin and the mosquito pod to come crashing to the floor, ripping up her towel and then weeing on her bed space. Again luckily she saw the funny side to it all (except, maybe, the weeing incident!)
The FOB is a good little set up, but doing training with Kevin is quite hard due to the lack of space, but I’ve managed to set up a few good areas. There is no hot water which means showering is quite emotional, so I try and do it in the heat of the day so it is a little more bearable. Kevin isn’t too impressed with the cold hose I keep using on him either! The toilets are non-existent, as it’s all done in bags which wouldn’t be too bad if I was male, as they also have man-made urinals, but trying to open the bags and set them up while bursting for a wee can be again quite emotional to say the least! However I suppose I can cope with the cold showers and going to the toilet in a bag cause at least I can do it all in a tailored floppy hat with no sun cream on.
We have not been on task yet so I’ve been stagging on the sangars for a fair few hours already. In fact I’m writing this at 0420 on 15 April. I’m guard commander of the FOB and Kevin is keeping himself amused with a piece of plastic he has just dragged out of the bin as I’ve made him come on stag with me too. If I have to get up then so can he! When I’m on sangar duty it passes the time but it can be quite boring. Earlier today when I was looking out into the green zone at all the poppies I heard kids shouting up to the sangar asking for “chocolate, chocolate” and “water, water”. Unfortunately I had nothing with me to give to them and was unable to leave my post, eventually they became annoyed and started throwing rocks and stones at me then left, but not before giving me the middle finger! It was like meeting the 7-year old Afghan child version of Kevin, which made me laugh.
The FOB I am in was Liam [Lance Corporal Liam Tasker] and Theo’s, so there are a number of things here which mark their presence such as the memorial board the Irish Guards have made which has the names of all those KIA (killed in action) who lived in the FOB from HERRICK 13 and Liam’s name is carved into many benches. It’s been sad but very comforting hearing how liked Liam and Theo were by all the guys… “Liam, what a guy!”, “Theo the super dog!” … and the stories of the two of them together, and what they brought to each patrol they went on. To that end I’m looking forward and consider it an absolute honour to carry on with the good work Liam and Theo started here and continue building the excellent reputation they left behind!
During the next week sometime Kevin and I will be out on our first operational task together, so I’m excited to see how that goes and hopefully resulting in Kevin having the first find of Operation HERRICK 14!! So I’ll tell you all about it in our next blog, but for now I’m going to climb into my sleeping bag (with Kevin of course) and get a few hours rest. Night!