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Welshpool soldier saves “numerous” lives

 
Created on 13/12/2011 @ 12:16

 

A military dog handler from Welshpool saved “numerous lives” on the Afghanistan frontline after sending in his sidekick for one last sniff on a gut feeling that something was not quite right.
 
Lance Corporal Darren Evans, 28, and his dog Oslo were called out to a dirt track to search the area when an Afghan National Army patrol reported seeing a piece of wire sticking out of the ground.
 
A robot had been sent along the track, but had found nothing leading the team to almost turn back to base. But Darren sent Oslo down the narrow track just to be on safe side, and the canine sniffed out the deadly 20kg improvised explosive device (IED) in northern Helmand.
 
“It must have only taken a minute, maybe two, for him to find it, mark it and come back when I called him, but it felt a lot longer” said Darren. “It is very quiet when he goes out. I think because you are that focused on the dog that you don’t notice anything else. Every time he sniffs something for longer than a previous area you are wondering if he has found something.
 
“And initially I was bit nervous in case anything happens. With all the training the working dogs go through you know he isn’t going to miss anything, but you never know what is going to happen. It’s still your boy you are sending out.”
 
Oslo, a Belgian Shepherd, is of the same litter as Obama, whose handler Sgt Kaye Wilson was made an MBE for their work earlier this year clearing a previously un-passable 4km stretch of road of IEDs.
 
“Part of you is hoping there is nothing there because it makes it safer for everybody, and they don’t have to try and deal with the device, but at the same time you are also really proud of him when he finds something.”
 
On this occasion Oslo had found a low metal content pressure plate – designed to miss detection by the Army’s metal detectors – which was connected to a 20kg explosive charge. On average, a 5kg device is enough to cause amputation and possibly death to a soldier on a foot patrol. The Ministry of Defence web site states that ‘a bomb of this size could have maimed and killed numerous soldiers, or potentially damaged a vehicle full of soldiers’.
 
“It does make you feel like you have made a difference when you find a device. If Oslo hadn’t found it then someone could have stepped on it, so I was very proud of him, and he was happy to get his toy – which is his reward. It’s all he wants!”
 
Darren spends two hours a day training Oslo, who is four years old, to keep his searching skills up to date, and returns with him to Camp Bastion every four to six weeks for further testing and training to ensure there is no skill fade.
 
Despite their clear bond however, Darren who serves with 102 Squadron, 1' Military Working Dog Regiment, is conscious that when he leaves Afghanistan in three months, Oslo will remain to continue searching.
 
“I would like for him to come back with me, but he is a good dog so there is a strong possibility that he will stay out here for another handler and hopefully find more IEDs. The guys have confidence in Oslo, they’ve seen him work and he is a really good dog.”
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