Friday, May 7, 2010
Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Day Out in Kabul
Lance Corporal Andy Wallace and Patrol Dog Gromit make a great team. Based at the Working Dogs Section at Camp Bastion, Wallace and Gromit have been sent up to Kabul to do a tour of duty patrolling the streets and enhancing security there. Their tour will last a few weeks before they return back to Bastion to guard the base.
Andy, 25, from Stanley in County Durham, is usually based in Sennelager, Germany with 105 Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Here in Afghanistan, the brave buddies leave Camp Souter every morning as part of a security patrol and go out onto the streets to reassure the local Afghans that the area is safe.
Andy says: “Both Gromit and I love getting out. The local people are always glad to see us. Well, they’re glad to see me!”
Andy explains that Gromit is not necessarily a cuddly character - he’s trained to be a protection dog. “If ever a crowd becomes too rowdy or riotous, Gromit is brought in to calm things down. He can be fairly aggressive when he needs to be. Most people don’t mess with Gromit.” he says.
Andy completed his dog handling course in June last year after completing two tours of Iraq as a medic. He and 2 year-old Gromit have been teamed up for 6 weeks now and will see out Andy’s 6-month tour in Afghanistan together. “We have made a real bond” he says, “Gromit is so protective of me and won’t let anyone else come near.”
“We spend most of every day together, be it on patrols talking to the local people to see if they have any concerns and picking up ideas for developing the community, or on guarding duties. You never feel lonely when you have a companion like Gromit but I do miss my family and my girlfriend Zoe.”
Also patrolling on the streets of Kabul are Private Laura Foxon, 22, from 102 Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps and her vehicle search dog, 4-year old Springer Spaniel JJ.
As a search dog, JJ can check up to 30 vehicles a day, sniffing for ammunition, explosives or unusual scents.
Laura has been in the army for 3 years and says that JJ is much less intimidating that Gromit. “We are definitely the friendlier pair!” she laughs.
Wallace and Gromit keep watch as Laura and JJ check all around the vehicles.
“We’ve not had any finds as yet, but JJ is very thorough” notes Laura, from Leicester.
Shortly, both teams will go back to Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan where they will patrol the perimeter and keep safe the thousands of troops living there.
But Andy has enjoyed his stint in Kabul. “It’s been cracking!” he says.