Former Smith's Hill High School student Conrad Sallans' father always told him to aim high - and soon he will realise his dream of becoming an Army helicopter pilot.
Mr Sallans, 21, was one of 265 midshipmen and officer cadets to graduate from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) this month.
Next year he will continue his military training at the Royal Military College Duntroon, then in 2014 he will begin his flight training as a helicopter pilot.
"My dad always said, 'Aim high - if you fall short you'll still hit something good, but if you aim low, no-one is going to prop you up'," he said.
"And so I've always tried to aim high."
Joining the Army has been a lifelong dream for Mr Sallans, and it seems the military calling is in his blood.
"Both my grandfathers were in the Army - my pop fought in World War II and my grandad was there soon after with the occupation forces in Japan," he said.
"My great-grandparents on both sides were involved in World War I in some capacity - whether in the armed forces or the nursing corps.
He got an early entry to military life, joining the Australian Army Cadets at 13 where he gained invaluable teamwork and leadership skills.
Then he was accepted into ADFA and in the past three years, along with his military training, he has completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in mathematics, through the University of NSW.
He counts leading the Anzac parade in Merimbula, and being president of the ADFA Precision Drill Team among the highlights of his time at ADFA.
"The most challenging thing has been balancing the military and academic commitments, but conquering those challenges has been rewarding," he said.
"The other great thing about ADFA is the exposure it gives everyone to the other branches of the defence force.
"And you make some of the closest friendships you'll ever have."
Mr Sallans is spending time with his family in Thirroul before he returns to training early next year.
"I joined the Australian Defence Force because I wanted to make a difference in the world and to help people," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to being involved in both military and humanitarian aid missions."