Inside the highly fortified walls of a military base near Baghdad, Australian and New Zealand soldiers have marked Anzac Day with a dawn service before returning to their daily duties training Iraqi soldiers.
The historic service was held inside a specially constructed blast resistant memorial, not far from the living quarters of the 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand soldiers serving as part of Task Group Taji.
“Anzac Day 2016 is of course a particularly poignant day for the members of task group Taji because we celebrate whilst we’re deployed as an Anzac task group on operations not too far from where it all began,” Taji Commander Colonel Gavin Keating told the service.
The ceremony is the first Anzac Day dawn service to be held at the Taji Military Complex, where Australian and New Zealand soldiers have been serving for 12 months.
The 400 member “Task Group Taji” is believed to be the largest joint Australian and New Zealand deployment to the Middle East since Gallipoli.
US Major General Gary J. Volesky, the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, said it was a privilege to be the VIP guest for the service.
After the proceedings, soldiers mingled briefly for a customary gunfire breakfast, but without the traditional ration of rum in their coffee due to an alcohol ban apparently imposed by the Kiwis.
Australian soldier Nicholas Garside said it had been a moving day.
“I pay respects in the same way as everyone else does, but it sort of adds a bit more to the future Anzac Days that I’ll be present for to know that I was an Anzac.”