On parade with UN in Syria

Eleven staff officers were awarded their United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) medals during a parade to mark the International Day of UN peacekeepers on May 29.

CAPTION: Wing Commander Stuart Wheal is congratulated by Deputy Force Commander Brigadier General Amitabh Jha (Indian Army) after receiving the UNDOF medal. Story by Major Carrie Robards. Photo by Major Shobit Bahadur Chand (Nepali Army).

UNTSO medal recipient Wing Commander Stuart Wheal is the ADF representative to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) at Camp Faouar in Syria under the designation of Operation Fortitude.

UNDOF’s role is to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria by supervising the areas of separation and limitation, as provided in the May 1974 Agreement on Disengagement.

The one-year deployment as the chief mission training cell involves training and mentoring of the troop-contributing countries and UNDOF headquarters.

Wing Commander Wheal said seeing improvement as his cell’s training recommendations were implemented had been the most rewarding aspect of his deployment.

“Working with individuals and groups to improve themselves, their contingents and to meet UNDOF’s mandate of maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Syria is what I am here for, and seeing my influence impact in a positive manner is rewarding,” Wing Commander Wheal said.

“Seeing recommendations that have come out of exercises and activities run by the mission training cell adopted and become part of the fabric of the mission highlights that my cell is being successful.”

While the training tasks are professionally satisfying, with no day ever the same, it is the cultural diversity of working with the UN that makes the job fascinating.

Wing Commander Wheal works alongside officers from Ghana and the Czech Republic.

There are 12 contributing nations to UNDOF, including Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, the Czech Republic, Fiji, Ghana, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands, Uruguay and Zambia.

Numerous other countries also support UNDOF by providing United Nations military observers from the UNTSO.

“We speak a lot about cultural differences at home but it’s not until you are in the melting pot of the UN that you see it firsthand,” Wing Commander Wheal said.

“I gave Aussie rules footballs to some international officers and have enjoyed teaching them how to kick and the history of the game.

“Coincidently, just this morning I got video footage of the ball I gave to my Czech colleague being kicked by children in a park in Prague. That made me proud to be an Aussie.”

The position within UNDOF adds to Australia’s other peacekeeping contributions in the region, including the UNTSO under Operation Paladin, and the non-United Nations Multi-national Force and Observers in the Sinai under Operation Mazurka.


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