This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Some 90 soldiers from the unit, which is part of the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment based at St George’s Barracks, North Luffenham, are leaving freezing temperatures in the UK for the searing heat of Afghanistan to form part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force that is drawn from 15 units from all 3 Services.
Around 40 soldiers have already deployed, with the final 50 deploying this week.
With months of training under their belts, the dogs and their handlers will play a vital role in supporting the transition in Afghanistan under the command of 1st Mechanized Brigade. Their role will see them training and mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces, and ensuring the safety of British and other International Security Assistance Force troops on the ground.
These highly-trained dogs and their handlers will carry out tasks that will include patrolling the bases where fellow British soldiers are based, searching vehicles at checkpoints and going out on patrols on the front line.
Last month saw the unit hold a briefing day during which families were given details of where and why their loved ones were deploying as well as detailed information on welfare and support whilst their loved ones are away. The day ended with a demonstration of the tasks the soldiers will carry out in theatre.
When the dogs first arrive in Afghanistan the first task will be to get them acclimatised to the environment, just like the soldiers themselves.
At Camp Bastion, the main UK base in Helmand province, the dogs are housed in air-conditioned kennels, which also have heating for the cold winter nights, and each dog has a run area and covered sleeping area in their individual kennel. When based out of forward operating bases, the dogs will sleep with their handlers.
The Officer Commanding 104 Military Working Dog Unit, Major Ian Razzell, said:
The soldiers and their handlers have been training in readiness for their deployments for the last 12 months. They have trained in a full range of environments so I am most confident they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
I am proud of every single soldier. For some of them it will be their first operational tour and of course it will be very hard indeed. They are away from home, they have left their families behind, and they will be working and living in tough environments.
They will do a good job, there is no doubt about it, they are first rate professional soldiers as well as dedicated handlers.