A Kiwi soldier has lifted the lid on life inside Iraq's fortified Camp Taji and the fight against Isis terrorists.
In a rare insight into the controversial deployment of 143 New Zealand troops as trainers in the war-torn Middle East nation, a 21-year-old has described how Kiwi infantry stand guard over countrymen and Anzac partners.
In an 850-word open letter, the soldier, whose identity has been kept secret, has revealed:
• Kiwi troops lived in "constant vigilance" of attack
• They realised "we might only have an instant" to react to enemy threats
• They were working in searing desert temperatures in the 40s by mid-morning
• There was no cold water
• Limited internet meant "mail day" was a highlight.
Days began the night before with battle prep, the letter says.
"This involves making sure we are properly prepared for the following day with our dress, equipment, ammo, rations, water (lots of it) and anything else we may need, all ready to go. Battle prep shaves off valuable minutes from our morning routine which could be better spent sleeping and allows us to avoid a telling-off from our section commander," the soldier wrote.
Tap image below to read a hi-res version of the full letter.
"A cold shower would be a good way to start the day but the heat being what it is means the water in the compound's reservoir tanks is always hot.
"Next is breakfast, which sees us at the mess forming a chow-line and busily procuring takeaway trays to sustain us through the day. Shortly after this, the convoy is 'geared up' and ready to depart."
Soldiers then travelled from the fortified New Zealand compound into the main training area of Camp Taji. Iraqi Forces training was at several rifle ranges and specially designed training areas.
"As force protection, my fellow infantrymen and I are first out of the vehicles so we can check the site for any possible dangers," the soldier wrote.
"This may involve the odd stand-off with packs of wild dogs or jackals that also call Camp Taji home." The troops are deployed to train Iraqi forces alongside Australians.
Sweltering conditions prevented a full day of training, but two air-conditioned gyms offered welcome relief.
"Long hot days in the sun, wearing body armour and uniform, observing and understanding the atmosphere of each training environment and maintaining constant vigilance, regardless of our levels of discomfort," the letter read.
"If a threat presents itself we might only have an instant in which to respond or diffuse it in order to ensure our trainers are kept safe.
"Luckily enough, both gyms here have decent air conditioning because if the boys couldn't hit the weights as a release from the working day, life would be harder."
According to the soldier, letters from home remain a key form of contact with loved ones.