Training for victory in Iraq
10 May 2017
With the transition from Task Group Taji IV to Task Group Taji V about to happen in Iraq, the commander of the current Task Training Unit at Taji can look back with pride on the achievements of the training mission.
Lieutenant Colonel (Lt-Col) Chris Gardiner is currently deployed with Task Group Taji Rotation Four, a combined force of about 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand Defence Force personnel who are training Iraqi Security Forces just north of Baghdad.
Under Lt-Col Gardiner’s leadership, the Task Group’s Training Task Unit is delivering training to Iraqi Security Forces at a crucial time with the battle to recapture Mosul still under way.
“Since Task Group Taji began operations in 2015, we’ve trained more than 21,000 members of the Iraqi Army and police,” he said.
“We’re out on the range with the Iraqis every day, delivering the instruction they’ve requested, to help them win their fight against Daesh.
“Watching the daily interactions between the Iraqis and our Anzac trainers is a highlight – they see each other as equals, the relationship is founded on respect.
“We can see that we’re helping the Iraqis, every day.”
Although Anzac Day was a special occasion for the combined Australia – New Zealand Task Group, after the commemorative dawn service the men and women of Task Group Taji were ‘back on the tools’ by early morning, delivering training in marksmanship, building clearances and explosive hazard awareness.
As they continue their mission to support the Iraqis, Lt-Col Gardiner says the legacy of Anzac Day is always on everyone’s mind.
“I’ve been fortunate to visit the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front, where I’ve seen the rows upon rows of headstones,” he said.
“When I remember those men, I also think of my family back in Canberra.
“I’m grateful for the sacrifices made in the past so that we enjoy the freedom we have today.”
Brought up south of Perth, Lt-Col Gardiner decided on a military career at an early age.
He attended Army Cadets during his school years at Aquinas College and remembers those years with pride. Most of his family still live in Western Australia.
“I fondly recall being a Cadet Under Officer when our Army Cadet unit took out the regional prize in 1994,” he said.
“I always wanted to join the military and continue my family’s military legacy.
“My grandfather was a Brigadier in the British Army, he was a signaller, and was appointed a Commander of the British Empire for his service.
“I considered becoming a signaller myself, but when I was at the Royal Military College – Duntroon the all-corps environment educated me about what’s available within the army."
“I’m proud to be a member of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.”
Since graduating from Duntroon, Lt-Col Gardiner’s career has taken him to Afghanistan and Iraq – this is his second time in Iraq - as well as training and professional development overseas.
In 2016, he was appointed the Commanding Officer of 1st Armoured Regiment based in Darwin at a key moment in the regiment’s history when it was designated as the mounting headquarters for Task Group Taji-4.
It was the first time the headquarters had deployed since it was founded after World War II.
“The timing was fortuitous; it was an opportunity to contribute to the history of the regiment,” he said.
“But I also had mixed emotions – I looked across at my wife and daughters and knew it was going to be an exceedingly busy two years.”
“In some ways, my wife was more excited than I was – like everyone else in the Task Group, we all rely on the support we receive from our families and communities.”
In the days leading up to Anzac Day that support became increasingly apparent as care packages and letters have arrived from well-wishers at home in both Australia and New Zealand.
“Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand continue to serve their countries in the Middle East Region and it’s important we respect their contribution,” he said.
“It’s important that people at home understand the effort that Australia and New Zealand’s young men and women are making in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
“They are committed to their mission and to their country.”
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Gardiner is the Commanding Officer, Training Task Unit with Task Group Taji Four, a combined force of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel training Iraqi Security Forces to defeat Daesh and maintain security in Iraq.
There are about 300 Australian and 100 New Zealanders in the Task Group. Since 2015, ADF and NZDF members of Task Group Taji have trained more than 21,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces.