Charity funding provides foundations for canine career
Former Staff Sergeant, Lester Staples, served with The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in a career spanning 22 and a half years.
During this time, he completed operational tours in Cyprus and Iraq, on both Op TELIC 1 and 2.
Sadly, Lester was medically discharged from the Army in February 2016 and, in his search for a new career, Lester sought the advice of his Personnel Recovery Officer (PRO). It became clear that Lester’s life-long love of animals, and dogs in particular, perfectly suited him to a career as a drugs dog handler. However, he was unable to afford the costs of the necessary training courses to get qualified, so it seemed his dream would be cut short.
At a loss as to where to turn to next, he was signposted to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – the national charity of the British Army, which supports soldiers, veterans and their immediate families in times of need. Upon hearing his predicament, they immediately stepped in to provide a grant covering the costs of the 16-day, intensive drugs dog handler’s course. The funding came through The Soldiers’ Charity’s relationship with Barclays – one of their key corporate supporters – who help to fund specialist programmes dedicated to the education and retraining of wounded, injured or sick ex-service personnel.
Lester and his dog, Beans, completed a course at Malpeet K9 Academy Ltd in Wales; a company that specialises in the use of operational dog teams as well as dog handler training. Amongst other tasks, the duo undertook ‘line work’ – an exercise that involves dog and handler working together to identify individuals in a line-up who might be carrying illegal substances, simulating queues at an airport or at sports/entertainment venues.
Speaking about how The Soldiers’ Charity’s support has positively impacted his life, Lester explained:
“If it wasn’t for The Soldiers’ Charity and their affiliate partnership with Barclays, then I wouldn’t be sat here now. I’ve got two years under my belt as a dog handler and feel like I’m doing something useful again. Their help set me up for a new career and got me back on my feet; now I can look forward to a promising, fulfilling future.”
Reflecting on the difficulties he faced during his transition from Army to civilian life, Lester also offers some words of advice to other servicemen and women who are struggling with similar experiences:
“I think a lot of soldiers have the mindset that they’re not worthy of help. But you are. You’ve served your time and you have done something positive for your country. When you’re in the deepest, darkest hole, and you can’t see any way to get up and out of that hole, just imagine that somebody is throwing you a rope… just hold on to that rope and let them pull you up. Don’t be afraid to approach charities like The Soldiers’ Charity, because there’s help out there if you need it.”