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Joel Cross - Goulburn Valley

Sitting through lessons in the classroom never had much appeal for Toolamba lad Joel Cross.

So after finishing at Goulburn Valley Grammar in 2015 he wasted little time joining the Army the following year.

“I wasn’t much for sitting in the classroom, I didn’t enjoy just listening to the teacher, I wanted to get out there, do something and have a bit of fun,” he said.

Joel joined the infantry and was posted to Townsville, but soon found himself deployed to Afghanistan as a guardian angel, looking after other Australians mentoring Afghan army personnel.

“Here we protect the mentors while they’re helping the Afghan National Army Officer Academy,” he said.

“Whether we’re out in the field or in the classroom; we’re basically making sure the mentors have the protection they need while they’re doing their job.”

To make sure they always have fresh eyes, Joel’s team rotates through guarding the mentors as they work.

“You can’t really afford to switch-off in case there’s a split-second where something does happen; so you have to be on the ball,” Joel said.

Joel’s parents Rick and Judy still live in the Shepparton area and look forward to hearing from their son.

“Obviously my mum’s pretty worried, but all mums would be though she’s pretty supportive,” Joel said.

“My dad’s definitely supportive; I guess he’s been worried too, but he doesn’t really show it.”

After his deployment ends in about March next year, Joel plans to head home on leave and share stories with his old mates.

“Being a small county town we didn’t really know much about the Army,” he said.

“My mates there don’t really know exactly what I’m doing, but they were excited for me to come here.

“I’ve got a few stories to take back to them.

“The Army is good fun and a solid job.”

Joel is deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Australian Defence Force’s Operation Highroad.

Operation Highroad is the Australian Defence Force’s commitment to Afghanistan to support the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission called Resolute Support which has replaced the previous NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission.

Around 270 ADF members from the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and Defence civilians are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Highroad.