Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Army dog and handler save life then bust deadly bomb makers
A dog handler serving in Afghanistan not only saved the life of a soldier who had been critically injured by an IED blast but then went on to trace and apprehend the bomb makers with the help of his canine comrade.
Lance Corporal Lee Edwards, 27, and his dog Molly were just three metres away from the near fatal blast which threw both of them into the air.
The pair had been tasked to support an IED search team along a road close to Sangin when night fell on the 28th June. Lance Corporal Edwards said: “We knew that the road was heavily laden with IEDs. It had already claimed casualties and it was our job to assist in finding the devices, both for the benefit of the local population and also to prevent further British casualties.”
But a short time into the task, things went badly wrong. “One of the soldiers stood on a pressure plate IED. It was very close to where I was stood with Molly and the force of it blew us both into the air. When I landed I was dazed for a moment and my hearing was badly affected. I could just about hear screaming through the smoke and dust. I knew there were multiple casualties.”
Lance Corporal Edwards sprung into action, dusting himself off and moving towards where the explosion had happened. In the pitch black, with a shattered head torch and night vision goggles, he scrambled around in the dark, struggling to find casualties. As his colleague sent up an illuminating flare Lee quickly identified the most seriously injured through the flash of light: “I ran over to him. He was in a really bad way. He had lost three limbs and was losing a lot of blood. I applied tourniquets to each of his wounds to stem the blood flow. With the help of field dressings and a blood clotting agent, I managed to stop the bleeding.”
Despite his catastrophic injuries the soldier survived, thanks to Lance Corporal Edwards’ quick action: “I just stayed calm and put my training into practice and it worked.” The casualties were evacuated by helicopter for further treatment while Lee and Molly returned to the patrol base for the night.
But their work was not done. The following day, they carried on with the task of clearing the road and moving through compounds identifying and disposing of a number of Taliban death traps left in their path. As they moved into a compound close to where the explosion had happened the previous day, Molly perked up.
“I knew that she was onto something and I waited for her to show me where the explosive material was. She led me to an IED making kit, probably similar if not the same as the one that would have produced the IED that had hit our patrol the day before. There were four people with the IED making kit who were arrested immediately and flown out. It felt good to know that we were addressing the source of the problem; not just the IEDs themselves.”
Lance Corporal Edwards is currently serving with 101 Military Working Dog Unit based in Aldershot. He joined the unit after transferring from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancasters (Regt) last year. “I just fancied a change. I’ve always wanted to work with animals and I knew being a dog handler would present a whole new range of challenges. I’m very lucky because only about 15 out of 500 who apply get in. Sangin is a particularly challenging place to be posted because of the high number of IEDs planted in and around the town.”
Lee is four months into his tour of Afghanistan and spends the majority of his time on patrol with Molly searching routes, compounds and emergency HLS. He is proud of Molly’s achievements so far: “It is very hot weather for her but she is a typical English Springer Spaniel. She loves it and searches ten to the dozen. I have to stop sometimes to rest her, because she won’t stop herself!
“She has had a very successful tour. She has found loads of IEDs; we’re in double figures now and she also helped to detain the four bomb makers. The lads love having us both with them on the ground. She is a really vital part of our task force. She is really is saving lives.”
Lee, who has been in the army for eight and a half years, is looking forward to getting home to see his mum and brother in Wigan. “I head home in two months and I’m really looking forward to seeing my family and getting down my local pub, The Moon Under the Water in Wigan. I still think about the guy who was injured by the IED that day. I’d never met him before and I hope that, when I get back home, I might be able to check up on him and see how he’s doing.”