Grafton Captain marks Anzac Day in Iraq
AS A fifth generation member of the Australian Army, a strong family connection to the defence force will be in Captain Tom Cross's thoughts when he marks Anzac Day in Iraq.
The Grafton man is among about 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand soldiers from Task Group Taji who are preparing the Iraqi Army to fight Islamic State.
The training mission is based north-west of Baghdad and the troops are training Iraqi soldiers in skills including weapon handling and combat tactics.
This is the second time Capt Cross has been deployed to Iraq. He has also served in Afghanistan.
When he is not working overseas, the 43-year-old is posted to Brisbane as part of the 8/9 Royal Australian Regiment in the 7th Brigade.
The logistics officer said he was enjoying the challenges of training a foreign army but looking forward to seeing his wife Georgie and children Jenna and Thomas when his rotation ended.
When he returns later this year he also plans to visit Grafton, where he spent his high school years and where his father - also named Tom Cross - lives.
Capt Cross said his family's military history inspired his career path and his father, who served in Vietnam and Malaya, had been a role model.
He said he saw plenty of familiar faces on the main street when he visited Grafton.
"I know a lot of the shopkeepers so I go and say hello to everybody," he said.
His hometown has not forgotten him either.
He thanked the Grafton RSL for supporting the troops by sending him a care package.
"It's a huge morale boost," Capt Cross said.
Over in Iraq he will attend a Dawn Service on Anzac Day and after work a barbecue and sporting competition, including a tug-of-war between Australia and New Zealand.
He said Anzac Day was a chance to pause and reflect on previous generations who had sacrificed their lives as well as those who had dedicated their careers to serving the nation.
Task Group Taji has trained more than 4400 Iraqi Army personnel in 11 months.