As a shivering and nervous new recruit to the British Army in 2007 -- wearing three layers just to keep warm -- Semesa Rokoduguni began to seriously question why he had left the tropical Pacific Island of Fiji.
"Everyone just looked at me and burst out laughing," he told CNN's Human to Hero series.
With limited grasp of the English language, Rokoduguni had to bite his lip and take his medicine to earn the respect of his colleagues in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, a tank regiment based in Germany.
But fast forward six years and Rokoduguni has had the last laugh because when he is not patrolling the front line with the army in dangerous trouble spots such as Afghanistan, he is charging to the try line at the home of rugby union Twickenham.
The skills he acquired playing barefoot as a child back home in rugby-mad Fiji -- where kids often use bottles because they have no ball -- earned him a place in the British Army representative side and it was not long before professional clubs took an interest.
Still a serving officer, risen to the rank of Lance Corporal, Rokoduguni signed a professional contract with leading English Premiership side Bath at the start of 2012-13 season.
Now 25, his swift and aggressive running has seen him impress despite his rookie status and he scored a fine try in a recent win over one of the most successful clubs in European rugby, Leicester.
It's a highly unusual double life and he reminds his new teammates that although rugby is a tough and physical sport, the lifestyle is a world apart from active service.
"I've been telling the boys at Bath, we do four patrols a day and you have to do that for every single day, there's no Saturday or Sunday, where you get days off. It's a hard life."
But Rokoduguni also believes the teamwork ethic that is necessary for very survival in a theater of conflict such as Afghanistan can cross over to sports.
"Trusting the guys beside you it is basically the same thing out there and on the rugby field as well," he said.
"Team bonding is a massive thing out there, you have to trust every single one in front of you, left right and behind you."
Rokoduguni's performance for the Army against the Navy in the traditional annual match at a packed Twickenham last year -- running in a hat-trick of tries -- brought him to national prominence for the first time.
Given his outstanding performances in the pro game with Bath, expectations were high for the 2013 edition last weekend.
A record crowd of over 72,000 watched the match -- the increased interest echoing the hullabaloo which surrounds the Army-Navy clash in collegiate gridiron football in the United States -- and the Fijian ace did not disappoint.
Another hat-trick of tries helped the Army team to another thrilling 43-26 victory over their arch rivals.
Just setting foot for the first time on the turf at the "Holy Grail" of the sport was an eye opener for Rokoduguni, given the rudimentary facilities he had grown up with.
"I thought, 'Oh my god, this is Twickenham.' I've just heard about this place and watching it on telly, I never realized that I would set foot on a ground like this.
"I was thinking back to my primary school life, playing rugby barefoot, chasing people around, smashing each other up! "
Rugby is the national sport in Fiji -- a former colony of the British Empire, hence the tradition of young men from the Pacific Island joining its armed forces.
Rokoduguni's uncle followed that route and inspired his nephew to sign up in the summer of 2007. His brother is also serving with famous Black Watch regiment in Scotland.
Despite the relatively small numbers of Fijians in the British Army, they make a large contingent of the rugby squad and for Rokoduguni it's almost a home from home, and allows him to use his native tongue in private moments.