Officer takes a bite in Helmand for charity

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A novel fundraising idea saw a British officer start his New Year running from the jaws of a deadly attack dog at Camp Bastion in southern Helmand province.

Lieutenant Colonel Jez Hair, Commanding Officer of 16 Medical Regiment, drew the short straw in the ‘Bite the Boss’ charity event, conceived by one of his own non-commissioned officers to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Michelle Lewis came up with the dastardly idea when visiting the Theatre Military Working Dog Support Unit (TMWDSU) one Sunday morning to help walk the search dogs as a bit of relaxation time.

WO2 Lewis arranged for all the commanding officers based at Camp Bastion to be entered into a ‘Bite Pile’. According to her plan, the various units’ personnel would battle it out over the final weeks of 2010 to raise as much money for Macmillan Cancer Support as possible before the money count on New Year’s Eve.

The winning unit would have the pleasure of seeing their boss summoned to don a protective bite suit and be chased down and grounded by one of the TMWDSU’s highly trained patrol dogs.

Lt Col Hair thought the idea was fantastic when he first heard it, and urged his fellow commanding officers to volunteer for the challenge. But when the winner was announced, his name was at the top of the list, with his unit raising over 800 US dollars to see him thrown to the dogs.

On New Year’s Day, Lt Col Hair struggled into the bite suit while patrol dog Rex was let out for some practice with handler Private Andy Daniels.

Spectators cheered from the sidelines as the Colonel sprinted off (as fast as he could in the suit) only to be knocked to the ground seconds later by the highly-trained dog; this happened not once but twice, with Rex finishing the event chomping down on an exhausted Lt Col Hair’s arm.

Lt Col Hair said:

It was fun, but [Rex]’s not placid when you’re staring into his eyes. I think I’m going to have some serious bruises in the morning.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of these guys for real,” he added.

In total, the ‘Bite the Boss’ event raised over 1,500 US dollars for charity, with six units competing for the ‘Bite Spot’ - 16 Medical Regiment, Bastion Role 3 (UK) Hospital, the Theatre Logistic Group, the Combat Support Logistic Regiment, the Equipment Support Battalion and the Bastion Quartermaster.

WO2 Lewis’s affiliation with Macmillan Cancer Support is deeply personal; she recently lost three close family friends over just two months to cancer.

Hair of the dog: Lieutenant Colonel Jez Hair is bitten by patrol dog Rex
Hair of the dog: Lieutenant Colonel Jez Hair is bitten by patrol dog Rex [Picture: Sergeant Corrine Buxton RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

WO2 Lewis is running her first marathon, the Virgin London Marathon, on 17 April 2011:

This is a charity I hold close to my heart and I can see and really appreciate all the support and donations everyone based here in Camp Bastion are showing already,” she said.

Even though we are all on operations, an event like this gives us all the chance to focus on something really fun and let our hair down for a while,” she added.

“I am so pleased at how much everyone has supported this cause. My CO [Commanding Officer] and all the others are down right good sports for allowing me to put them through this for a good cause. My aim is still to raise over £3,000 before the marathon in April.”

If you would like to sponsor WO2 Lewis, and help her to achieve her goal, visit her virginmoneygiving page