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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 16:39 UK
The dogs taking on the Taliban

By Tulip Mazumdar
Newsbeat reporter, Military Working Dog Support Unit, Camp Bastion

All week Newsbeat has a series of special reports from Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Today we look at the work done by a very special group of canine companions who are doing their bit on the front line.

Sergeant Major Frank Holmes with sniffer dog
Sgt Major Holmes says a dog & handler do work of up to six men

Sniffer and protection dogs save British lives, according to the senior dog advisor at Camp Bastion Sergeant Major Frank Holmes.

There are 20-25 dogs based throughout Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan where British troops are based.

Most are German Shepherds, Labradors or Spaniels. They may look cute and friendly, but these animals have a deadly job - sniffing out roadside bombs, and chasing and catching Taliban fighters, alive.

The lap of luxury

It reaches highs of 50C in the daytime in Helmand, and lows of -10C at night.

The dogs would not be able to do their jobs if they were uncomfortable. They can spend hours or even days out on patrol with troops, so when they are back on base they live in the lap of luxury.

You probably wouldn't realise it looking at the kennels though. They are made up of a 2x2 meter caged box at the front.

But step behind into the area behind and you see a slightly larger room. This area can be air conditioned or heated and the dogs can cosy up on a fluffy white mat and "chill out", as dog handler Lance Corporal Marian Hay put it.

Another soldier joked: "The dogs get better accommodation than us!"

Leanna the dog
Leanna in her specially-made 54,000 kennel

The kennels aren't cheap though. They cost £54,000 each. 20 new kennels have just arrived here. You do the maths.

'The job of four-six men'

Most troops on the ground there will tell you more fire power and men are needed in Helmand.

But while the cost of training and housing these dogs is high, it is nowhere near the millions of pounds that new kit will cost.

Sgt Maj Holmes said: "The army likes to use certain buzz words and the biggest buzz word at the moment for the military working dog unit is force multiplier."

Getting a dog in to secure an area can save precious hours of soldier's time.

Sgt Maj Holmes said one sniffer or protection dog along with their handler can do the job of "four-six men" on the ground, meaning that those men can be deployed on other tasks.

It's clear these dogs do an important job here. But most of the troops Newsbeat has spoken to say they would sooner see more helicopters and armoured vehicles coming into Camp Bastion than dogs.



SEE ALSO
British forces 'treat injured Taleban'
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day one
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day two
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat

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