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Braden Holmes - Watsonia

Swapping his swimmers for Army fatigues was an easy choice for former lifeguard and Greensborough College graduate Captain Braden Holmes who is currently deployed to Iraq on Operation Okra with the Australian Army.

Captain Holmes is a training team leader with Task Group Taji 5, a combined force of more than 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand Defence military personnel deployed to Iraq to train the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat Daesh.

He grew up in Watsonia and was a lifeguard at Greensborough Swimming Pool and Eltham Leisure Centre, before joining the Army as an Infantry Officer in 2011.

Operation Okra is his first deployment.

Braden’s job involves planning, co-ordinating and conducting daily training with up to 350 Iraqi soldiers at a time, putting him in the middle of Operation Okra’s mission to train the Iraqi Security Forces.

Now halfway through their time in Iraq, Braden’s training team have just completed an eight-week program with the 53rd Iraqi Army Brigade.

The training involved shooting skills, medical training, counter IED training and, for Braden, mentoring Iraqi Officers in operational planning skills.

“It’s been both challenging and rewarding,” Braden said.

“I’ve really enjoyed spending time with and getting to know my fellow Iraqi officers.”

Braden has found the hardest part of the deployment has been leaving his wife Mila at home, although his parents have provided her with plenty of moral support.

“I’ve been able to Skype with my mum and dad in Watsonia on an almost weekly basis,” he said.

“They have kept me updated on family news, and the exciting changes happening in Banyule, including the improvements to the Greensborough shopping precinct.

“As a former lifeguard at the old outdoor pool, I’m really looking forward to heading to the new complex with my niece and nephew when I’m home at Christmas.”