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Sergeant Robert Staley - Meringandan

A Meringandan resident has swapped his grassy acreage for the sands of Afghanistan as part of his deployment as a soldier with the Australian Defence Force.

Sergeant Robert Staley, an Army signaller, is helping Afghan instructors to develop lessons for their cadets at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.

But it took some time to get used to local customs and connect with their Afghani military counter-parts.

"You can't just come in and say ‘you do it this way’," he said.

"You say 'how's your family? How's the weather? You build your way into it; that's the Afghan culture."

Robert is part of Joint Task Force 633 which commands Australia’s military involvement in the Middle East.

Robert said it took two or three weeks sharing drinks of chai (tea) and talking about their families before they developed trust and understanding with the Afghan army instructors.

"With such great rapport the Afghan instructors were ready to take advice from the Aussies," he said.

"They are happy to accept criticism but you don’t do it in front of their friends.

"You take them out the back, talk about the wife, you talk about the family and then you talk about how they went in the lesson."

Robert said he tells the army instructors where they can improve and then finishes on a positive note.

Robert said he misses his family as much as the life-style of Meringandan.

He moved to Meringandan last year when he started work at the Army’s 7th Signal Regiment at Cabarlah.

"There's no traffic, you wake up in the morning and hear cows mooing," he said.

"It's all familiar because I'm a country boy at heart.

"We've got great neighbours and the wife's got great friends; they'll help each other out, pick each other's kids up and drop the kids off."

Robert said his family need that kind of community support while he is away.

"I really miss my wife Joanne and two year old daughter Isabella, but the home-coming will be worth the wait," he said.

This is Robert's second deployment to Afghanistan and he has also served in Solomon Islands, East Timor and Bougainville.

He is one of about 420 Australian personnel who are based at Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan to support the ISAF train, advise and assist mission.