In a few weeks time Captain Laura Holmes, who is currently based in Germany with The 1st Military Working Dog Regiment (1MWD Regt), will be heading out to Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan, to be the veterinary officer to the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
Laura’s work will include working with the local Afghan people, most of whom will be male, to educate them as to how they can better look after their livestock.
She explained to Women at War why work like this is so important.
“Because of our withdrawal from Afghanistan eventually, we hope to leave them in a better state from when we entered.
“So on my part, I am trying to improve the health and welfare of the animals and better educate people, so they can help themselves, it’s about hearts and minds really”
Laura, 29, will be working closely with veterinary technician Corporal Emma Ford who will be doing a lot of the teaching.
They will also provide clinics where local people can bring their livestock for check ups and learn more about how to prevent illness in animals in the first place.
As a part of her work she will be co-ordinating with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and the Afghan government.
When asked if she is nervous about working on the ground with the Afghan people, she says that she is looking forward to it but as always she is nervous of the unknown.
“I am going out to do something that I have not done before.
“I’m not nervous for my health or integrating with the locals.
“I am quite looking forward to it to be honest”
Because of the Muslim culture in Afghanistan Laura will be working mainly with men.
However, this is not a concern for her.
“For the Afghans the women in the Army are almost seen as a third gender, they are not seen as the same as Afghan women.”
The nature of modern warfare means that anyone working beyond the wire is at risk.
“It is asymmetric warfare now, counter-insurgency is one of those things where there is no real front line.
“You can be back in the safe haven of camp and still find that there is a threat… It’s not trench warfare like it used to be.
“I think it is just a matter of taking every precaution when you are out there.
“Taking into account the lessons learned and using the (military) training that I have received to make sure I stay safe”.
In preparation for deployment Laura has received some basic training in Pashto as well as being taught about the culture and how to respect the wishes of the people.
Some of this is taught by Afghan nationals working with the Army.
The Reconstruction team will also be made up of Doctors and Engineers working alongside the people to gather local information about who needs what and where.
Whilst Laura is looking forward to her work over the next six months there will be some challenges ahead.