Page 27 - Chiron Spring/Summer 2023
P. 27

 by LCpl James Smith, 105 MWD Sqn
On the 11 November 2022 I arrived in Mali, Africa to begin Op NEWCOMBE 5
attached to SCOTS DG. Straight away I started training with my Military Working Dog (MWD), Lotte – in order to license in theatre and be
a fully operational dog team. After numerous weeks of training and scenarios, we were fully qualified to operate on the ground. The average temperature was around 30 degrees Celsius, with this expecting to continue to rise. This temperature was difficult to work in, as not only did it affect me, but it also affected Lotte and her ability to perform. Due to the nature of her job, Lotte is expected to conduct searches in any weather condition, so preparation in the first stages of our deployment was key.
Between December 2022 - January 2023 we deployed on several patrols as the Long-Range Reconnaissance Group (LRRG). The first patrols were short in distance, to fully perform a HOTO with the earlier Task Group.
On the 21 December 2022, the LRRG deployed on a 1-day patrol
to a local area used as a short arms range. On the return to Camp Bagnold, the EOD&S Task Line were tasked with searching a Vulnerable Point (VP) just outside the local town. Once we had completed the initial area search, we then started the isolation of the VP (VP360). This
is to target IED threats we could face. The HASD capability was extremely valuable in this situation to the RE Search Team.
Overall, the VP360 went very well, and Lotte worked to an exceptional standard, impressing the RE Search Team.
A typical day would start at 0530hrs, and I would be at the MWD compound for 0600hrs. We would then head into our first walk for around 40 minutes. We would then head back to the compound and prepare for the first training session. At 0750hrs I would put Lotte back
in her kennel and go for breakfast. At 0830hrs we would be back out, starting training session number
2. We would normally be finished
by 0930hrs, then giving Lotte a 30-minute break before session 3. The mornings work would tend
to finish by 11-1130hrs, allowing
us both a bit of down time, as the temperature rose. Between the hours 1200 – 1500hrs was Lotte’s rest, occasionally I would get her out within this time, but I tried to stick to a set routine.
During the afternoon we would normally complete a few short, low- level training. I learnt a profound amount since being on tour, mostly about dog training, but also about my own abilities as a handler. I put on training sessions for the Medical Group and the Search team (who
would be closest to me and Lotte, if we needed help), instructing them how to put a catheter into a MWD and safely administer fluids.
OP NEWCOMBE 5 was the last
tour in Mali that British Troops would complete – therefore the Theatre Draw Down Unit (TDU) were deployed to aid in our collapse of the Task Group. It was my responsibility to plan, organise and execute a full collapse of the MWD compound. The withdrawal plan I had developed was split into four stages; this was
to protect my ability to keep MWD Lotte performing at high standard throughout the withdrawal process.
The return back to the UK was
a long flight. We flew form Mali
to Senegal, which was 3 hours,
then waited there for 3 hours and then finally the 6 and a half hours back to Brize Norton. On arrival
we were transported to a local
camp to complete our 24 hours of decompression. This decompression was a good end to a good tour, with clay pigeon shooting, axe throwing and quad biking among the day’s activities.
In summary, OP NEWCOMBE 5 was a complete success for me and Lotte. We completed a total of 104 days in theatre and had no issues with the withdrawal. Although it was not the tour, I was I expecting, I still feel myself and Lotte had a strong impact within the LRRG. I took pride in representing the RAVC and 1st Military Working Dog Regiment.
 Chiron Calling / 25

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