28 May 2012
20120525_WN_C1022490_0004: South Sudan, 2012: Major Matt Kerr is deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as a Military Liaison Officer based in the state of Jonglei, South Sudan. In this image he is meeting MAJGEN Peter Gadet.
Defence Force personnel serving as peacekeepers on UN missions will tomorrow commemorate International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, remembering those who lost their lives serving on UN missions.
Twenty-three New Zealand Defence Force personnel are currently serving as peacekeepers on UN missions in eight countries around the world, including the Kiwis who recently deployed to the United Nation’s newest mission, the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).
In South Sudan, Iraq, South Korea, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Middle East, Defence Force personnel play their part contributing to the United Nations work to enable peace and security in countries torn by conflict.
Army Major Matt Kerr is currently deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), established last year when South Sudan became the world’s newest country.
MAJ Kerr is a Military Liaison Officer in the state of Jonglei. His role involves patrolling by helicopter to remote towns and villages to gain an awareness of the social and security situation, providing advice to security forces, and reporting back to the mission headquarters.
"The locals now rely on the developing security forces of South Sudan to provide security against cattle raiders and inter-communal raids, and as that is a work in progress often the UN Military Officers are able to bridge the communication gap and provide updates, or make return visits, or use UN resources such as helicopter reconnaissance flights to ensure situational awareness and showing commitment from the UN to help improve matters.
"Working as an UN Military Officer is incredibly rewarding. I work in a team of twelve Military Liaison Officers from various countries round the world. Despite our different origins, we all speak a common language; that of military professional. The experiences we go through together here form very strong bonds of comradeship.
"The road to success for any new country is a long one, so to be a part of that process, with all its challenges, is very satisfying. Contributing just a small amount to improving another persons or communities situation where at times there is little other hope, makes it all worthwhile."
Navy Commander Simon Rooke returned last month from a deployment as a Military Advisor for the United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA), based in Kabul.
His role in Afghanistan included providing military advice to the UNAMA leadership on strategic and operational level activities of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and what the implications of these plans and operations could mean for UNAMA.
"I was able to experience first-hand, working within the UN environment, as well as gaining valuable experience from working within a military headquarters that controls a force of over 100,000 combat troops from dozens of nations. Exposure to operations on that scale is something I had never experienced before," CDR Rooke said.
Navy Lieutenant Martin Wilson has also recently completed a six month deployment to the UN Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) in South Korea where he was an Assistant Corridor Control Officer, ensuring that the operation of the Transportation Corridor between North and South Korea conforms to the Armistice Agreement.
LT Wilson said he encountered a number of challenges during his deployment.
"The challenges of the job included leaning to work within the combined systems and processes of large organisations such as UNCMAC, US Forces and the Republic of Korea Army; and add the language and cultural differences into the mix," LT Wilson said.
"The opportunity to live and work in a different country and experience the culture has been a privilege, as has been meeting and working with people from a host of different nations.
"The contribution from New Zealand servicemen in the 1950-1953 conflict was significant, and I feel I have honoured that contribution by serving here."
More than 2990 military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives while on UN peacekeeping deployments since the first UN peacekeeping mission was established in 1948.
For further information please contact Defence Communications Group Media Advisor, Katherine O’Donnell on 021 664 293