A small team of Australian Defence Force personnel are making a big impression at the Coalition headquarters working with the Government of Iraq to defeat Daesh terrorist forces for Operation OKRA.
For the past year, 15 Australian Army, Navy and Air Force personnel have been embedded within Combined Joint Task Force - Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, located in the Middle East region outside of Iraq. The team is responsible for the synchronization of operations and execution of the international military response in Iraq and Syria.
The international task force is commanded by Lieutenant General Sean McFarland, from US III Corps. His three-star headquarters contains around 400 personnel from more than 20 nations including France, Denmark, Canada and Spain.
Chief of Staff, US Brigadier General Kevin Killea said the Australian military assistance has been invaluable.
"The contribution of the embedded Australian Defence Force personnel has been outstanding," he said.
"They have vast experience, an ability to rapidly plan on short notice, and they are impeccable in the way they execute their tasks.
"The Australian Defence Force can be relied on for their professional advice and hard work.
Brigadier General Killea said the United States and Australian militaries have a long history of working together, particularly in recent times.
"Our shared understanding of planning and conducting operations has been crucial in creating a Coalition force that can daily strike Daesh targets while enabling Iraqis to build their combat capabilities," he said.
The mission for the planners consists of three main lines of effort.
Coalition forces are working with the Government of Iraq to train and equip Iraqi Security Forces through the Building Partner Capacity mission.
The 'Advise and Assist' program is helping Iraqi forces to plan and execute missions, while the coalition continues its air campaign conducting airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces on the ground and against Daesh targets.
For Chief Petty Officer Communication and Information Systems Submariner Rob Maraldo, his current desert base is a long way from the sea.
Not only is it an odd place to find a submariner but he is also the only non-US. citizen in a section responsible for ensuring that all communication networks and equipment to, from and within Iraq remains operational.
"I arrived with little knowledge of what and where my role would take me," Chief Petty Officer Maraldo said.
"I have found myself learning about new equipment and techniques on a scale far grander that I normally deal with at home,"
"This role allows me to get out and visit other bases, often in the middle of nowhere with not a tree to be seen but plenty of sand.
"Thankfully the 50-degree days are gone and we are able to walk around at night without sweating.
"It is great to be an Australian in a place like this because as soon as people see the flag on the uniform or hear the accent they want to talk to you and ask about Australia.
"The language barrier can be the biggest challenge here as the sayings and words we use in Australia doesn’t always mean the same here, especially my Navy and submarine talk."
Active since November 2014, the Australian personnel have been fulfilling significant roles across the breadth of the headquarters including communications, logistics, planning, flight movements, public affairs, targeting and intelligence, with more than 30 Australian Defence Force personnel serving in the headquarters.
Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20153267.