International Women's Day: From Bega Valley to Iraqi soldier battle training

Corporal Kelly Squires grew up in the Bega Valley and is now a Corporal in the Australian Army.
Corporal Kelly Squires grew up in the Bega Valley and is now a Corporal in the Australian Army.

This International Women’s Day, Corporal Kelly Squires will be serving her country in Iraq, far away from the Bega Valley where she grew up.

Corporal Squires grew up in Jellat Jellat and attended Tathra Primary School.  

Now a Corporal in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, 25-year old Corporal Squires is currently deployed to Iraq with Task Group Taji 4 – a combined force of around 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand Defence Force personnel.

“I can remember the Australian Defence Force Recruiting team coming to Bega High and thinking I wanted to be part of an organisation that puts the needs of others first,” she said.

“The Army was where I wanted to be.”

On International Women’s Day, Wednesday, March 8, Corporal Squires will be out on the rifle range training Iraqi Security Forces in weapons handling and first aid.

The Task Group’s mission is to train Iraqi soldiers and police, to help them defeat the Daesh terrorist group and maintain security in liberated areas.   

“I’m teaching the Iraqi Security Forces a range of skills from first aid to weapons handling to operating vehicle check points,” she said.

“We’re teaching them the skills they need to operate in dangerous urban environments such as Mosul.

“The most rewarding part of the deployment so far is seeing the progression of the Iraqis,” she said.

“It’s great to see how their shooting improves with your coaching.

“There’s a great sense of pride knowing you are making a difference to their soldier skills which will ultimately save their life in battle.”

Although she is enjoying her deployment, Kelly is also looking forward to returning home in June to spend time with her fiancée Jeska and their three dogs.

“It’s hard being away from Jeska, but she has always been so supportive of my career,” she said.

“She sends me lots of pictures and videos of the dogs which always makes my day brighter.

“I’ll be making the big trip home to spend some quality time with my family and friends from the South Coast.”

With Anzac Day approaching next month, Corporal Squires is also aware that she is continuing a family tradition.

“My great-grandfather won a Military Medal for bravery in World War 1,” she said.

“It was something I was always so proud of, especially on Anzac Day when I march with my little brother James.

“The support we receive from family and friends is absolutely wonderful.

“We really appreciate the care packages and letters sent from school children and generous strangers. It means a lot to know that people are thinking of us at home.”

Corporal Kelly Squires is deployed on Operation OKRA, as part of Task Group Taji 4 - 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.

Australia’s Defence contribution to Iraq is named Operation OKRA, and includes a Special Operations Task Group, an Air Task Group and Task Group Taji.