AN AUSTRALIAN army explosive detection dog has been killed while on active service in Afghanistan.
The Australian Defence Force said yesterday the dog, named Merlin, was accidentally run over by an Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) at the Australian Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) base at Tarin Kowt earlier this month.
Merlin had been lying in the shade of the ASLAV when the vehicle drove off, inadvertently running him over.
The four-year-old blue heeler cross was a veteran of three major operations, having served on security for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, in East Timor and Afghanistan.
As a specially trained and recruited explosives detection dog, Merlin held the official rank of sapper and the service number EDD439. Defence spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said Merlin's handler, Sapper Peter Lawless, was distraught at his death, as were other task force members.
"Merlin is the first army explosive detection dog to die on operations," he said. "His death will be keenly felt by the RTF and the wider Royal Australian Engineers, particularly their specialist dog handlers."
Merlin was laid to rest overlooking his home of the past few months by RTF personnel and Chaplain Captain Craig Potter, who gathered at the Kamp Holland kennel complex. Brigadier Nikolic said explosive detection dogs were used by the RTF in a specialist search capacity to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices throughout Oruzgan Province. After training, such dogs are worth about $90,000 each.
"The RTF maintains a significant explosive detection dog capability but the Australian Defence Force does not disclose the number of dogs with the RTF for operational security reasons," he said.
Photo: Merlin with Peter Lawless in Afghanistan.
Click to view image: '90858-jmNATIONALdog_narrowweb__300x3760.jpg'
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