Former Newport local and Army soldier Private James Orrock has swapped the sands of the beaches for the desert of Iraq during a deployment to the Middle East.
James works as an infantryman providing security and protection for Australian trainers instructing Iraqi soldiers.
This means staying alert for long periods under the hot Middle Eastern sun.
"You've got to try and be in the moment and you can't let yourself daydream," James said.
"It makes things easier when the Iraqis come up and talk to you or give you a high-five.
"You'd be surprised how much that little bit of engagement keeps you on the ball.
"They're really friendly and it's great to meet them, I don’t have the opportunity to meet many Iraqis in Australia."
James finished Pittwater High in 2007 and joined the Army seven years later after working a few different jobs.
"I'd never really had much direction," he said.
"I always put-off joining the Army then I realised it might be right up my alley so I thought I'd give it a crack."
He's now based in Brisbane as an infantryman.
"I'm a bit old-school about how I approach the Army," he said.
"If you're going to join, you join to do a traditional soldiers job.
"I also wanted to do something physical and challenging."
The change in lifestyle amazed James' family and friends back home.
"Everyone says they're really proud of me and they can’t believe I am deployed already," he said.
"When people consider how my life was before, they're amazed to see me now."
Though James misses his large group of friends on the Northern Beaches, is was offset by the benefits of being in the Army.
"You develop a whole new group of friends," he said.
"When you go out field there's always a different kind of situation to deal with and you see how well you handle stress."
But James said the Army is not like a video game and urged potential recruits to speak with someone serving before signing-up.
"Learn what you can about it first and make sure you don't have any misconceptions when you join," he said.
He is due to return to Australia later this year.