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Samsher Ali - Port Pirie

Samsher Ali, a general surgeon from Port Pirie, is returning home from the Middle East after his second ADF deployment to the region in just six months.

Lieutenant Colonel Ali has been deployed to Iraq for Operation Okra as part of Task Group Taji Rotation Four a combined force of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel that is delivering military training to Iraqi Security Forces for their fight against Daesh.

An Army Reservist, Lieutenant Colonel Ali's expertise as a surgeon has been highly valued at the Anzac-staffed hospital based at the Taji Military Complex, just north of Baghdad.

"I'm happy, and honoured, that I've been given the chance to contribute to the health care of our deployed members," he said.

"This is my third trip to Taji and the second with this particular rotation - I spent two months working in this hospital, with this team, late last year."

The building that houses the hospital also contains health elements from the United States and British armies, and civilian contractors.

The multinational team has provided Lieutenant Colonel Ali an opportunity to work with people from a range of medical specialisations, as well as a chance to revisit his Kiwi connections.

"I studied in Fiji and I was given a Commonwealth scholarship to do my specialist training, which I completed in New Zealand," he said.

"I am familiar with the Kiwi culture, and familiar with the Australian culture, so it was quite straightforward and easy to work in with the combined forces.

I've got an acute appreciation of how to work with other people and I've enjoyed it enormously, interacting with the different nations and contractors, and exchanging skills and knowledge."

On relocating to Australia from Fiji in the late 1980s, Lieutenant Colonel Ali settled in Port Pirie to work as a rural general surgeon.

He was commissioned as a Specialist Service Officer in the Australian Army Reserve in 2001.

"I came from Fiji and I saw Australia as an inclusive and fair society," he said.

"From my perspective, when you see something that good you support it unconditionally.

"I like the ethos of the Australian Defence Force - I see that same inclusiveness and fair mindedness that I see in the wider Australian community, and I see people who are like me who want to contribute to society."

After a busy six months, completing two eight-week deployments with Task Group Taji Rotation Four, Lieutenant Colonel Ali is looking forward to getting back to his hobbies and friends, returning to work, and going home to his wife and family in Port Pirie.

"My passion is steam engines," he said.

"I've got a group of friends who make steam engines and radio controlled aircraft, and refurbish small motors for motorboats, and things like that - it will be good to get back to building my engines.

"My practice has been extremely well supported in my absence, thanks to my colleagues in Adelaide.

"None of this would have been possible had I not had the support from my wife Debbie - it is important to thank her because she does so much of the background work that enables me to do this."

About 300 Australians and 100 New Zealanders are deployed with Task Group Taji and Lieutenant Colonel Ali will return home in the coming weeks.