ON TOUR: Gladstone diggers Private Alex Ogilvie and Company Sergeant Major John Craig in Iraq for Task Group Taji.
ON TOUR: Gladstone diggers Private Alex Ogilvie and Company Sergeant Major John Craig in Iraq for Task Group Taji. CPL Jake Sims

Gladstone soldiers in Iraq are missing local pies

THE international trainers of the Iraqi Army are being protected by two Gladstone soldiers as part of an ANZAC force.

Company sergeant major (CSM) John Craig and private Alex Ogilvie are currently serving in Iraq in Task Group Taji to help protect the trainers who prepare the Iraqis to fight Isis.

The two Gladstone men are part of 8/9 Royal Australian Regiment in the Seventh Brigade in Brisbane.

CSM Craig, 38, was born and bred in Gladstone and when at home he loves to go to his brother's bakery for a cheese and bacon pie.

"It's always good to get back to Toolooa Bends and do a bit of fishing," he said.

He is on his sixth deployment; his first was the International Force to East Timor in 1999, then again in 2001-02.

He went to Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan in 2006 and again in 2010.

He said he would be in the Australian Army for as long as his body would let him.

"I've always wanted to be in the Army; my grandfather was a Korean Vet and as a young kid I did cadets at Gladstone State High," he said. "There's no greater honour than being an Australian soldier and I can't ask for any more."

His position makes him the highest ranking soldier in charge of standards, discipline and keeping the diggers honest.

Meanwhile, Pte Alex Ogilvie is on his first deployment at the age of 18.

Pte Ogilvie went to South Gladstone State School, Channel College until Year 10 and finished at Tannum Sands State High School.

He said when his friends wanted to do apprenticeships, he wanted to join the Army.

"Every day is different and you are always learning," he said. "The Iraqis are really good, eager to learn and have a joke.

"They are here to go out and defend their country."

But after his deployment finishes mid-2016 he will come back to Gladstone for a few beers with his mates.

"And a cheese and bacon pie at Craig's Bakery," he said with some prompting by his senior.

Task Group Taji

  • In its 11th month of operations
  • Trained about 4455 Iraqi Army personnel
  • Is a non-combat role
  • Made of about 300 Australians and 105 New Zealanders

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