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31 year old Lance Corporal Billy Nelson from St Austell volunteered to be a Search Dog Handler and is now on his second tour, based in Helmand.
Billy has deployed to Afghanistan for six-months searching for improvised explosive devices with the help of his four-legged friend and is part of the Military Working Dog Squadron. Working hand in paw with Dream, a three-year-old black Labrador, specially trained to sniff out explosives, together, they help keep British soldiers safe from harm.
Billy is a soldier in the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, and normally serves on a Challenger 2 main battle tank at the unit’s base in Tidworth, Wiltshire. However, he volunteered to be a Search Dog Handler after an opportunity arose to work with dogs in Afghanistan. Being a dog lover and already owning a chocolate Labrador, he jumped at the chance.
He underwent a five week course, which included how to bond with dogs, search practice and veterinary instruction, and once he arrived in Afghanistan he began working with Dream straight away.
Billy and Dream patrol with British troops for anything from a few hours to several days, and their services are in high demand.
Speaking about the bond he has formed with Dream, Billy tells Heart;
“Out here, she’s quite simply my best friend. It’s impossible not to grow so fond of her, especially since she’s saving my life and the lives of the guys on patrol.”
Billy was first deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 on a Warthog armoured fighting vehicle and has noticed the startling difference between life in Afghanistan now....and how he saw it three years ago;
“There’s been a huge change between 2010 and 2013. It’s a lot calmer now, and you can see the Afghan Army and Police on the streets providing security. It’s a completely different place compared to three years ago.”
Lance Cpl Nelson lives in Tidworth, Wiltshire with his 40 year old wife Susie and their 2 year old daughter Mia-Louise, but they often visit their home county of Cornwall to see family and friends.
Billy is due to return from Helmand in August for a well earned holiday.