The barren, flat expanse of Besmaya, a military training range on the outskirts of Eastern Baghdad, are a long way from the lush greenery of the stone-fruit orchards of the Goulburn River, where Captain Lachlan McDonald was raised.
"I grew up in Shepparton, played cricket for the Kialla Knights Cricket Club and attended Goulburn Valley Grammar School before joining the Australian Army in 2011," the 26 year old Shepparton boy said.
"I graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2012 before completing my training at Royal Military College Duntroon where I was commissioned as an Officer in the Royal Australian Artillery, which has ultimately led me here, training Iraqi Army Officers to conduct limited air support operations."
Capt McDonald is deployed to Iraq as part of Task Group Taji, the combined Australian and New Zealand contribution to the broader "Building Partner Capacity" mission in Iraq.
As a Forward Observer and qualified Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), Capt McDonald brings a niche skill set to the Task Group's mission.
"I specialise in tactical control of artillery, mortars, fixed wing and rotary wing attack aircraft in close proximity to friendly forces," he said.
"Being able to provide training in line with my specialty has been an immensely rewarding experience."
Executing the culmination of this training at the Besmaya Range Complex has been a memorable highlight for the avid cricket and AFL player.
"The pinnacle of the deployment has been participating in the live fire assessment of Iraqi forward air control students," Lachlan said.
"Over a period of two weeks we conducted static and mobile training scenarios employing live munitions from coalition jets from various nations, as well as Iraqi F-16 jets and US AH-64 Apaches.
"This was a unique experience and it was very rewarding to see the Iraqi students succeed in the complex and demanding training we have delivered."
Whilst it has been a rewarding deployment so far, Capt McDonald is keen to return home to spend time with his girlfriend Kait, his father Shane and family and his two Border Collies, Milo and Rasta.
"I feel very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to do what I have worked for years to do; to deploy on operations in the interests of Australia. I feel very honoured to have been selected for this deployment and to serve my country."
Currently, around 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand military personnel are deployed to Iraq as part of Task Group Taji. They are deployed to train members of the Iraqi Security Forces as they continue to secure and stabilise areas now cleared of Daesh.