Bournemouth Soldier's Bravery Honoured

A soldier from Bournemouth who was shot dead in Afghanistan has been given a bravery award.

22-year-old Conrad Lewis was Mentioned In Despatches - meaning his name's on an official report about his actions. Conrad, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was killed along with a comrade by a single shot from a Taliban sniper in February 2011.

A number of other soldiers have also been honoured, including an Army explosives sniffer dog handler who saved ''countless'' lives by uncovering deadly Taliban roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Kaye Wilson, 35, has been awarded an MBE for her ''unwavering bravery'' in searching for hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the frontline in Helmand Province.

She and her dog Obama, a two-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Shepherd Malinois, were deployed to the most dangerous areas as part of a high-risk IED search team.

The Royal Army Veterinary Corps soldier, from Shrewsbury, said it was ''amazing'' to receive the MBE and joked she would share it with Obama, adding: ''It's a team effort. I feel very humbled.''

Sgt Wilson paid tribute to her comrade Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, from Tayport in Fife, who is awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches after being shot dead in Helmand in March.

L/Cpl Tasker and his sniffer dog Theo, who died from a seizure hours after his master, found a record 14 bombs and weapons caches in five months.

Sgt Wilson said:

''We are all very close, so what happened affected everyone. Unfortunately jobs have to be done and we all had to carry on.''

Her MBE citation read:

 ''Wilson pushed herself and her dog to the limits of endurance, supporting the infantry and saving countless lives in the process...

''Always keeping a cool head and demonstrating unwavering bravery, Wilson operated at the very top of her game and maintained this unparalleled performance throughout the tour.

''Courageous but understated, she led from the front with a technical proficiency and selfless dedication.''

The dog handler was based in Nad-e-Ali and Gereskh in Helmand on her third tour of Afghanistan from September last year until March, which she admitted got ''tasty'' at times.

She said:

 ''It was probably the most intense because I was working with the high-threat teams. However, working with the high-threat teams I was probably more secure because they have a very good knowledge of what they're doing.

''At first it's a scary process, but you do relax into it. You trust your team around you.''

Sgt Wilson stressed that Obama, who is still in Afghanistan but may be coming home soon, was not treated as a pet.

''It's not a relationship where it's cuddled. It's a working dog and maintained as a working dog,'' she said.

''The teams did bond with the dog because it's a bit of normality when you're in the back end of nowhere, but it's not meant to be a pet.

''I'm the one who's feeding him, maintaining him and walking him - obviously he's happy to see me. I was the boss, and that's how it's supposed to be maintained.

''They have got no concept of danger. The only thing that may spook them slightly is our reaction to things - if we start running around, they think, 'what's going on?'''

Sgt Wilson and her husband Matthew, a driver in the Army's Royal Logistic Corps, have three pet Labradors at home who are all former military working dogs.

She has not ruled out adopting Obama too after he retires, but joked:

''I've got three at the moment. My husband will kill me if I get another.''

A total of 140 servicemen and women - most of whom served with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan between October last year and April - were awarded honours today.

Two other soldiers were recognised posthumously, with a prestigious George Medal going to Private Martin Bell, 24, from Bradford, of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who died in Helmand in January after disobeying a direct order and going to provide urgent first aid to a wounded friend.

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