Luke Burgess might just make it home to Bathurst for Christmas this year after working as a mentor to staff at the Afghan National Army (ANA) Officer Academy.
Warrant Officer Class Two Luke grew up in Bathurst and finished high school at St Stanislaus College in 1996 before joining the Australian Army two years later.
As a mentor at the academy, Luke works with Afghan instructors and has found the need to factor Islamic-practices into the training.
"The ANA is based around very strong religious practices and it’s very important the ANA is seen as a very religious army," he said.
"Military operations take into account prayer times and their leadership values are very similar to the leadership values of Islam.”
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, where no food or drink is allowed during daylight, only morning classroom lessons were conducted to prevent fatigue.
"Half of the religious aspect is about us planning to those religious practices," Luke said.
"We can come up with this ‘you-beaut’ plan but when you put it in context it’s not necessarily the best solution for the ANA."
Though posted to Townsville, Luke brings his wife and two daughters to visit parents Sharyn and Graeme in Bathurst every second Christmas.
But for the moment he’s making good friends with the Afghan translators at the academy.
"They’re not just here to provide translations," he said. "They also give us cultural advice.
"They’re definitely very helpful to us as we're working towards the some goals.
"I didn’t have much face-to-face time with the Afghan people when I was here in 2011; the most rewarding experience is having that relationship now."
Apart from his first Afghanistan tour three years ago, Luke also served in East Timor in 2001.
Luke is one of about 420 Australian personnel who are based at Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan to support the ISAF train, advise and assist mission.