STAWELL - Former Stawell man, Matthew Phelan will be leaving Australian shores at the end of this month as he embarks on a seven month tour of Afghanistan.
A Captain with the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Matthew will be based in Tarin Kot for the majority of his tour. He said by the time he reaches Uruzgan province, the bases will have been handed over to the Afghan National Army.
At present, Australian troops are in command of security at Uruzgan province, having taken over in September from the United States.
Matthew, who was educated at Glenorchy Primary School and then Stawell Secondary College, said he was looking forward to flying out to Afghanistan with his Battalion on October 30.
A transfer of authority between the 3rd Battalion and 7th Battalion will officially take place on November 18.
Although he has been in the Australian Defence Force for 21 years, Matthew, who is now based in Adelaide, said this was without a doubt his most exciting and challenging mission.
"I have been on several peace keeping missions before, including Boganville and was a part of the third rotation of training team with the Australian Army in Iraq, but this will be the first time I have been deployed with a unit sized element," he said.
Matthew will be deployed as an adviser to the senior logistics officer in the 4th Brigade 205 Corps with the Afghan National Army. He will be part of a 44-man element known as the brigade advisory team.
The senior logistics officer will refer to Matthew and his team for advice during the transition phase of the security handover in Uruzgan province.
Matthew said while the majority of his time would be spent at Tarin Kot, his element would leave on patrols from time to time to see how support for the base is going.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Matthew said.
"We have spent most of the year training for the tour. It's the best training I have ever been involved in, during my 21 years in the Army.
"The equipment we have been given in the past six months is first rate. The 7RAR is part of the 1st Brigade based in Darwin and the brigade has been receiving the latest equipment over the last six months so it has been easy to find the motivation to train, knowing everything we are using is first rate."
Matthew admitted training for the tour has been a lot tougher than normal, as the troops prepare for the extreme heat in Afghanistan.
"Towards the end of our rotation, we will be coming up to the summer again, so temperatures will be up around 40 degrees every day," Matthew said.
"With protective clothing and backpacks, we usually carry an extra 18 kilograms with us, so it is pretty tough going. You have to be pretty fit.The tempo at training has really lifted over the past 12 months to prepare us for this.
"Our unit is a very well led unit and the junior members have had the Afghan deployment to focus on for the whole 12 months, so the motivation has been very high.
"Everyone looks forward to doing their job for real, so the morale is as high within the unit as you could ever see it."
Matthew was in Stawell last weekend and his family organised a barbecue at Cato Park, giving them an opportunity to bid farewell before Matthew embarks on his tour of Afghanistan.