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Our digger is far from home, but mateship makes it a little easier

The snowy mountains of Afghanistan in wartime couldn’t be further from summer in Australia — and indeed Cobram-Barooga. But Private Troy Robertson hopes his family and mates back home will have a beer for him and enjoy the sunshine as he’s serving with the Australian Army’s 7th battalion Royal Australian Regiment at war.

JESSICA GRIMBLE January 2, 2013 7:00am

Private Troy Robertson, 23, has been deployed to Afghanistan for eight months. Picture courtesy Australian Department of Defence


The snowy mountains of Afghanistan in wartime couldn’t be further from summer in Australia — and indeed Cobram-Barooga.

But Private Troy Robertson hopes his family and mates back home will have a beer for him and enjoy the sunshine as he’s serving with the Australian Army’s 7th battalion Royal Australian Regiment at war.

The 23-year-old former Barooga resident said the camaraderie and friendly competition between his mates was helping support him during his deployment.

He is working as a crew commander on a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle and is among Adelaide-based soldiers deployed to Afghanistan until June to advise the Afghan National Army. They are completing an eight-month deployment to Uruzgan province.

His role is to ensure the safety of civilians as they move around their local areas.

‘‘The locals are quite happy with what we’ve achieved and we’re quite proud of what we’ve done,’’ Private Robertson said.

‘‘We get them out and get them back again safely — but we have to be on our toes.’’

Private Robertson said great support between mates had been important.

‘‘One of the best parts, now I look back, is the (physical training) we do every morning — it’s one of the more challenging aspects,’’ he said.

‘‘My section are very competitive — even if we play a game of cricket there is sledging before it even starts.’’

He said personal training sessions could be enjoyable and challenging at the same time — because everyone was pushing each other to be the best.

‘‘I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I fare pretty well,’’ he said.

Private Robertson said the soldiers were able to enjoy some social time on Christmas Day before going their separate ways and speaking to family and friends in Australia.

They received many care packages from governments, schools and other organisations — and their families.

‘‘It was my first time away from my family over Christmas — but it wasn’t too bad, being with all my friends,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got quite a few phones and laptops with Skype here, so we can call home pretty regularly.’’

He asked his family and friends back home to enjoy a beer for him during the summer.

He said the weather in Afghanistan wasn’t quite what he was used to, come December.

‘‘It’s pretty cold at the moment — it’s starting to snow on the mountains around us,’’ he said.

The soldiers received a surprise visit from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott before Christmas and Private Robertson said he lobbied the politician to allow members of the RAR to wear berets again.

The Army’s leaders refuse RAR members to don the headwear.

‘‘(Abbott) liked to listen to the diggers’ opinion while he was here and he was interested in what we’ve been doing,’’ Private Robertson said.

He said Mr Abbott remembered the soldiers discussing the issue at a previous visit.

Private Robertson trained at Kapooka, near Wagga Wagga, before being posted to the 7th battalion in Darwin. He is now based at Edinburgh in Adelaide.

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