Importance of teamwork in hostile environment

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author and photographer)

Location(s): Canberra

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, Operation ASLAN

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Peter Barnes at the Dedication of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial on Anzac Parade, Canberra. (photo: Jay Cronan)
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Peter Barnes at the Dedication of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial on Anzac Parade, Canberra.

The recent unveiling of the peacekeeping memorial in Canberra, we take the opportunity to reflect on the service of another Royal Australian Navy member in his service with the United Nations.

The importance of teamwork is what Lieutenant Commander Peter Barnes is reminded of when he thinks back to his peacekeeping deployment to South Sudan.

Lieutenant Commander Barnes, deployed as a member of the first rotation of Operation ASLAN with the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan from November 2011 to June 2012.

He served as Deputy Chief of Logistics Support in the Force Head-Quarters in Juba and Deputy Commander of the Australian Contingent

Lieutenant Commander Barnes was one of the many attendees at the dedication of a new memorial in Canberra on 14 September.

The memorial honours the work of more than 80,000 Australian Defence Force members, police and civilian peacekeepers, and was dedicated by Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Rtd) on Anzac Parade.

The dedication coincided with the 70th anniversary of the deployment of the first Australian peacekeepers to the United Nations Good Offices Mission to Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies, in 1947.

Lieutenant Commander Barnes said a highlight of his deployment was working with military members from different nations, and also the other agencies which made up the Mission.

“During a crisis over the December 2011-January 2012 period, inter-communal violence flared up in Jonglei state, keeping us extremely busy for three or four weeks,” Lieutenant Commander Barnes said.

“Knowing there were small numbers of peacekeepers in relatively isolated areas in Jonglei state, surrounded by potentially hostile Lou Nuer tribal youth who wanted to get at the Murle people sheltering in the United Nations compounds, was extremely stressful.

“The teamwork displayed during the crisis by the military and the civilian agencies within the United Nations system to get the support needed up to Jonglei state, and to get the Murle civilians evacuated when we needed to, was amazing.”

Lieutenant Commander Barnes said patience was something he learnt during his deployment.

“There was the frustration of trying to deal with the bureaucracy that is the United Nations, but eventually you accept that bureaucracy exists for a reason,” he said.

“In the end, you had to go through the process and try to massage it the best you could to get the result you were after, which was to provide support to our people in the field.”

Lieutenant Commander Barnes said it was definitely a worthwhile deployment, although frustrating at times.

“But we all came back from our deployment satisfied in the job we’d done, trying to support and provide help to the people of South Sudan,” he said.