GUARDIAN ANGELS: Australian Army soldier Private Andrew Proefke stands with soldiers from the Iraqi Army while providing force protection at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq.
GUARDIAN ANGELS: Australian Army soldier Private Andrew Proefke stands with soldiers from the Iraqi Army while providing force protection at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. CPL Matthew Bickerton

Former Rockhampton footy player deployed to Iraq

FORMER Rockhampton lad and Australian Army Private Andrew Proefke has swapped his footy boots for a rifle during a deployment to the Taji Military Complex in Iraq.

The ex-Gracemere Cubs and Frenchville Pioneers' player now helps keep Australian trainers safe after joining the Army in 2013.

"We go out on the ground and provide protection for the trainers who are instructing Iraqi Army soldiers," Andrew said.

This means staying alert for long periods under the Middle Eastern sun.

"I keep my eyes open and imagine a scenario where something may go wrong and think about how I would react," Andrew said.

"I'll keep that in my head if something goes down, but a lot of the work involves standing still and being alert."

Andrew said he saw the Army as an opportunity to get his life on track and have a stable career.

"I always liked the idea of being in the infantry, even though they have it the hardest," he said.

"I just wanted to do the best job the Army had.

"It's a brotherhood, everyone's your mate, and it's more of a lifestyle than a job.

"I wasn't expecting this deployment.

"We were on our way out into the field and it just popped up.

"Everyone had heard about the last couple of trips to Afghanistan, but we were a bit surprised when Iraq was mentioned."

Based in Brisbane as an infantryman, Andrew still has family back in Rockhampton who are keen to hear how the deployment is progressing.

"Mum's really proud of me," he said.

"She identifies herself as a proud Army mum."

The Army in Iraq

A company of infantrymen provide force protection to ensure training is safely conducted

Known as guardian angels, they watch for any threat and provide oversight while the combined training team does its job

The angels' work is essential in ensuring the safety of the Australian and New Zealand trainers and the Iraqi trainees



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