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Army November 24, 2011
By Michael Brooke
THE harrowing but heart-warming book Saving
Private Sarbi by Sandra Lee was launched by former
CA Lt-Gen Ken Gillespie (retd) at Victoria Barracks
on October 5.
Explosive detection dog Sarbi was also on hand to
‘sign’ books at the launch.
Lt-Gen Gillespie said Saving Private Sarbi was a story
that deserved to be told and was such a good read he fin-
ished it in two sittings.
“I was particularly impressed with Ms Lee’s coverage
of the actions on September 2, 2008, which led to Sarbi’s
loss and of course the awarding of the VC to Mark
Donaldson,” he said.
“I have read chapters 17 and 18 a few times and they
capture the essence of the ferocity of the battle and the
nature of our troops so well.”
Lt-Gen Gillespie said the book was a wonderful trib-
ute to Sarbi and all the other brave Army dogs that have
undoubtedly saved the lives of Australian soldiers and
civilians in Afghanistan, where the scourge of IEDs pose a
great menace to local security and economic sustainability.
Sarbi’s handler, Sgt D, said if the labrador cross could
speak she would want to know what all the fuss was
Author Sandra Lee described the story as a combina-
tion of Lassie Come Home and The Hurt Locker.
For nearly 14 months Sarbi was separated from her
handler in Afghanistan. Upon being found again, she was
returned to Australia where she was awarded the RSPCA
Purple Heart – only the second military animal after
Simpson’s donkey to be so honoured.
More than just
a dog’s life
A NEWFOUNDLAND Labrador
cross named Sarbi started life,
along with her brother, Rafi, as
a much-loved family pet in the
Southern Highlands of NSW
and ended up an international
Both dogs were “adopted”
by the Army in 2005 when they
were three years old and trained
as explosive detection dogs.
Saving Private Sarbi spans
Sarbi’s early carefree days
to her tragic disappearance
in Afghanistan after she fled
from fierce warfighting in Khas
Uruzghan and her miraculous
reappearance 13 months later
and consequent return home.
It is also the story of EDDs
and their handlers and the ADF
personnel who put their lives on
the line every day on operations
around the world, but par ticulary
“Often all that stands
between a digger and death, or
serious injury, is an explosive
detection dog. They are highly-
And, relays Sandra Lee in
her book, they are still the most
effective weapon for detecting
explosives. – Sharon Palmer
Guest of honour: EDD Sarbi and author Sandra Lee at the book launch.
Photo by Michael Brooke
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