Alongside her faithful friend Sam, an Ilkeston soldier is on her first tour of Afghanistan.
Private Natasha Ward, 20 – known as Tasha – is currently serving in Patrol Base Folad, Helamnd Province as a vehicle search dog handler.
She and four-year-old Springer spaniel Sam are responsible for searching any non-military vehicles which enter the patrol base.
Sam’s heightened sense of smell is used to detect arms and explosives which could be hidden around the vehicle.
Tasha said: “I am really enjoying my time out here so far, because Sam is getting to do his job for real, and so am I.
“It is great to put all of the training we have been through into use on the ground here in Helmand.”
Tasha has only been in the army for two years and this is her first tour of Afghanistan.
She trained initially as a protection dog handler, and then moved on to specialising in vehicle search after a further four weeks of training at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray.
“When we are out here, we have to work together to keep each other safe. He is doing really well and I trust him with my life,” Tasha said.
When asked how she felt about playing an important role in the security of the base, she said: “It was a bit daunting at first, but you have to just crack on and get on with your job, and that’s what I am here to do.”
Tasha forms part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Task Force and has been attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment for the initial part of her tour, which will soon be replaced by 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
There are currently about 9,000 UK service personnel in Afghanistan, reducing to 5,200 by the end of 2013, most of whom are based in Helmand Province.