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Hugh McNeill - Frankston

Trying to hit homeruns for the Mornington Pirates was a great goal for the young Hugh McNeill, but he dreams for manhood ran further afield.

He dreamed of joining the Army and serving overseas, so after graduating Frankston High School in 2015, Hugh wasted no time signing up.

Less than two years later, Hugh deployed to Australia’s Main Base in the Middle East where he’s serving as a storeman.

He mainly issues body armour, helmets and uniform items to personnel on their way to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We give this gear out so people are well prepared for any type of scenario that gets thrown at them,” he said.

Cold weather uniforms and boots can also be given out depending on the season.

Hugh and the team of stores personnel may kit-up to about 100 people per week.

This occasionally resulted in strange requests from people coming through.

“Someone asked for left-handed earmuffs, which don’t exist to my knowledge, they’re generic to both sides,” he said.

The armour and helmets weigh about 9kg combined and are the latest designs available to the Army.

Personnel heading to Afghanistan or Iraq are also issued with a rifle, pistol and ammunition, meaning they carry between 25-35kg of equipment on them.

Hugh said he enjoys how his work focuses on how Australian Defence personnel work in the Middle East.

“You’re seeing end results, you’re seeing equipment go out the door to where things are happening,” he said.

“At home, I’m in a third-line unit so I don’t get to see the soldiers themselves.

Here, I’m working hand-in-hand with the people who do what we’re here to do.”

Hugh first joined the Army as part of the gap year program in 2016 and decided to continue serving when the year was up.

“We weren’t treated any differently to the other soldiers,” he said.

“It was a mater of trying out Army life, and if it works for you, it works for you.”

He said the mateship was what he loved most about the Army.

“When you’re training you get into some fatiguing situations and everyone just comes together and get through it,” he said.

“That’s one thing you can get in the Army you probably won’t get in any other job.”

Hugh’s mother lives in Frankston South and his father lives in Safety Beach, but they weren’t surprised when their son revealed he was off overseas.

“I told them both and they were prepared for it because I’ve wanted to do this for ages,” he said.

“I’ve grown up wanting to be here, coming overseas for Australia was my life goal.”

Hugh is deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Accordion.

Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on Operation Accordion support and sustain ADF operations in the Middle East region, enable contingency operations and enhance regional relationships.

There are about 400 personnel deployed on Operation Accordion throughout the region.