WHEN Elio Scarpelli left Mackay to join the Australian Army at the age of 18, he did not imagine he would deploy to Iraq a few years later.
"Growing up in Mackay, I attended Pioneer State High School and played soccer for Magpies football club," said the 23-year old corporal, now a proud member of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
"This is my first deployment and I believe that the job we're doing over here is not only important for Iraq, but for Australia too."
This Australia Day, Corporal Scarpelli is part of Task Group Taji Rotation Four - a combined force of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel on a training mission to support Iraqi Security Forces.
For the next six months, he'll be based at the Taji Military Complex just north of Baghdad, where his role is to train and mentor Iraqi soldiers and police to help them to defeat Daesh and maintain security in Iraq.
"I'm deployed as a Protected Mobility Vehicle supervisor, providing protected mobility and security to the training teams," he said.
"The training never stops, if we're not training Iraqis we're training ourselves to maintain our skills.
"Our routine usually consists of one to three training periods a day, and we try to squeeze in physical training somewhere in between."
As part of his mission, Corporal Scarpelli says he's had the opportunity to find out more about the Iraqi people and their culture.
"The Iraqi soldiers that I've seen are all keen to learn from the trainers and like any soldier they enjoy having a joke," he said.
"Their enthusiasm motivates us to give them the best training we can and I believe we're doing a good job. The training we're giving them could save their life or the life of their friends."
With six months to go until he returns home, Corporal Scarpelli says he sometimes misses home even though he's enjoying his job.
"Sometimes, you start to miss the little things like having coffee with mum and dad or simply just going for a drive," he said.
"When I get back, I'm looking forward to catching up with my brothers, meeting my newborn nephew and putting my feet up while knocking back a beer.
"My family and friends have been very supportive during my time away and understand that this is all part of the job."