A family dynamic where one sibling is a major and another is a captain sounds fairly routine to most military families.
However, the Wood family, of Camperdown in south-west Victoria isn’t like many others.
“My brother Easton is the captain of the Western Bulldogs,” said Major McLeod Wood of Task Group Taji 8.
Major Wood is deployed as the Officer Commanding Training Team Victor, based at the Taji Military Complex, 20 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Task Group Taji 8 is Major Wood’s third deployment, having served twice in Afghanistan.
“This deployment is really different because we’re solely focused on training. It gives you a completely different mindset,” Major Wood said.
“The focus is completely on making the Iraqi Security Forces better.”
The combined Australian-New Zealand task group provides the Iraqi Security Forces with training at the Taji Military Complex.
The priority for the eighth rotation of Task Group Taji is providing support to the Baghdad Fighting School in its instructor development as it trains the Iraqi security forces.
Although he is only a few weeks into his deployment, Major Wood said he was already witnessing rapid progress in the skill level of the school instructors and the Iraqi Army battalions they train.
“We are already seeing quite a difference just in their responses to the training and also how they actually use their weapon systems, their firearms and how they communicate with each other,” he said.
Major Wood joined the Army via the Australian Defence Force Academy straight after high school.
He described his childhood in the Victorian south-west region as idyllic.
“Playing footy with the Camperdown Magpies and working out on the farm with mates and going shooting are my favourite memories of growing up,” he said.
Major Wood said although he played AFL with his younger brother, their time together on the oval at Camperdown was limited.
“I only played with my brother for a couple of games, he was a couple of years junior to me,” Major Wood said.
“But I’d like to think I taught him everything he knows!”
The way he talks about his younger brother, it is obvious that friendly rivalry is alive and well in the Wood family.
“There is a lot of trash talking, our family is incredibly competitive. Both my parents were Commonwealth games-level athletes, dad in the triple jump, mum in the 800 metres,” he said.
Despite the rivalry, the Wood brothers are close.
“We talk two or three times a week, he’s always supportive and sending over boxes of goodies and letters and things like that. We talk quite a bit about how leadership affects both of us and what we do to try and get the best out of our people.”