Former Mornington Peninsula local and Australian Army soldier Private Anthony Russo has swapped Victorian beaches for sand of a different kind on a deployment to Iraq.
Anthony works as an infantryman in a small team providing security for Australians training Iraqi soldiers.
But during breaks, Anthony had the chance to meet some of the Iraqis being trained.
"I originally thought they would be intimidated by us but they're not shy at all," he said.
"They're always coming up and asking questions about our weapons and kit.
"They can't really speak English so they'll try to communicate with hand gestures or through an interpreter; they're all good blokes."
Anthony left Mount Eliza High in 2012 and joined the Army the following year.
"It was something I always wanted to do through high school," he said.
"A lot of people were doing trades or going to uni and I wanted to do something a bit different.
"I was always interested in sport and wanted to have an active lifestyle."
After completing his Army training, Anthony was posted as in infantryman to Brisbane.
It wasn't long before he discovered he’d be deploying to Iraq.
"When I told mum first up she didn't really see it coming and was pretty surprised," Anthony said.
"But I just told her how it's going to be and what we would be doing then she seemed alright."
Anthony said deploying overseas was a major goal for him since he joined the Army.
"It was always an experience I wanted to have," he said.
"It's great to have the boys here and to always be around your mates.
"It's also good getting out seeing how the Iraqis work and how they operate, because that's not something we'd normally see much of."
He is due to return home later this year.