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A memorial for Australia’s Explosive Detection Dogs Killed in Action in Afghanistan
05 July 2011

Explosivie Detection Dog and handlers attend the unveiling of the new Explosive Detection Dog and Handler memorial at Multi-National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan.
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In a corner of the Australian recreation area, named in memory of Trooper David “Poppy” Pearce, a poignant ceremony marked the unveiling of a memorial for another group of very special fallen Australians.

As Corporal John Cannon and his Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) Section completed their nearly nine-month-long tour of Uruzgan Province, they were joined by dogs and their handlers from the Special Operations Task Group, to unveil the EDD and Handler Memorial.

“A rare and unique opportunity presented itself. Thirteen dogs and Handlers from the Mentoring Task Force (MTF) and Special Operations Task Group were in location,” Corporal Cannon said.

“A good number of handlers and dogs in Tarin Kot, came to pay their respects to our mates who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The memorial was conceived following the deaths of Sapper Darren Smith and his dog, Herbie, in June 2010. Sapper Smith’s Mentoring Task Force rotation began to prepare the Memorial and the following rotation completed it.

Initially the plan was to have the Memorial located at the EDD Kennels in Tarin Kot, which are named in honour of Merlin, the first EDD to die in Afghanistan.

However, as the significance of the Memorial to military personnel in Uruzgan became evident, it was decided to move the Memorial to Poppy’s.

There, it would be passed by ADF and ISAF personnel, everyday, reminding them of the essential and dangerous task that the EDDs and their Handlers undertake.

The polished metal board features the names of the five dogs, Merlin, Razz, Andy, Nova, and Herbie, along with the name of Sapper Darren Smith.

Above the names is a pair of silhouetted images: one of a dog and his Handler and the other of a dog sitting at rest.

The silhouette of the dog and Handler was based on a photo of EDD Raven and his Handler Sapper Nathan Cooper.

“I call the photo, ‘the bond’. It symbolises the working partnership and mateship between dog and Handler,” Corporal Cannon said.  The team of dog and Handler provide a unique and special capability to the ADF, in the detection of IEDs, explosives, ammunition and weapons caches.
“There is also a unique and special bond between the two – they are a team that shares the risks and puts their lives in each other’s hands.

“These teams save lives every time they uncover an IED or a cache.”

After the ceremony, dogs and handlers mingled with the gathered crowd, where the response to the dogs clearly demonstrated how loved and popular these special soldiers are, not only to their Handlers, but to all members of the various task forces operating in Uruzgan Province.