Prime Minister Scott Morrison has thanked hundreds of Australian troops in Iraq for their service ahead of Christmas.
The PM travelled to the Taji Military Complex, Iraq to meet with Australian Defence Force personnel who are helping train the Iraqi Armed Forces to fight Islamic State.
"The other reason I’ve come here, apart from wishing you a Merry Christmas, is to say thank you. To say thank you for your service. To say thank you for your service from me, Scott Morrison, who lives in Port Hacking in southern Sydney, wife Jenny, two girls Abbey and Lily. On behalf of my family to you and all your families I want to say thank you very much for your service," Prime Minister Morrison said.
"I also want to say thank you to you as a Prime Minister, as a leader of a government, as a member of the Australian Parliament, on behalf of our entire nation."
It's Morrison's first visit to the Middle East as Prime Minister, after a planned visit to Afghanistan was cancelled due to security reasons.
"Know that each and every single day, Australians greatly value your service. And also know that when your service has been completed, know that Australians will always value it when you’re a veteran. When you’ve returned and you’ve returned to civilian life. But particularly at this time of year, I want to thank you, because for some, it may be the first time on deployment when you’ve been away from young families and partners, wives, husbands," Mr Morrison said.
"For some this is not the first time, you’ve done it many, many times. And you’ve come up with routines and things that, you know, make sure that your kids and family still have something special on Christmas Day. But I understand it’s a sacrifice, I understand it’s a big thing to be away from your family at this time of year and that’s why I’ve decided to come here. Just to simply say thank you as one Australian to another and to honour your service and thank you for your service and to really appreciate how you are continuing the story of the 7th Brigade."
Around 300 soldiers have arrived in Iraq for the eighth rotation of Task Group Taji, which has trained over 40,000 members of the Iraqi security forces since the mission started in 2015.
Captain Steve Moye has hailed the immediate impact the eighth rotation have made in their training.
"Even just in the four weeks we've been here the improvement in the individual skills of the Iraqi soldiers has been exponential," CAPT Moye said.
Prime Minister Morrison said the government plans to continue "to work side by side with Iraqis, Afghans and our coalition partners to destroy Da’esh and al-Qaeda".