A SOLDIER from Stevenage will deploy to Afghanistan this month to take up his role as a dog handler searching for enemy weapons and explosive devices.

Private Steve Smith will be supporting 16 Air Assault Brigade by providing protection and search capabilities, as well as helping to clear routes, buildings and vehicles.

The 22-year-old joined the army two-and-a-half years ago and has been training with his unit for months for this deployment.

“I’m as ready as I will ever be and I will go where I’m needed,” he said.

“I know my mum is worried, but she is very proud of me.

“She brought me up on her own, and I know she will find it hard whilst I am away, but I’m ready.

“We are going out to do a job and I’m looking forward to it.”

He said he thinks the dog unit will provide “great morale for the troops” and will “instil confidence into the guys on the ground”.

Pte Smith could find himself searching vehicles that come into Camp Bastion, or going out on foot patrols looking for munitions and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“I love the search work, it’s awesome,” he said.

“It’s all about the relationship with your dog. You need to be able to read your dog and the dog needs to be able to read you.

“We are a team at the end of the day. He is the specialist, but if I wasn’t there to guide him he’d go off and do his own thing.”

Dogs recruited by the Armed Forces are aged between one and three, and most are unwanted pets.

They are trained at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray.

To find out more about donating a dog to the Armed Forces, call 01664 418668 or visit www.yourcountryneedsyourdog.co.uk