With the recent unveiling of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra, we look at another role an Australian Navy member undertook for the United Nations.
Learning to listen was a takeaway feature of a deployment to South Sudan for Lieutenant Commander Paul Koerber.
Now based at Garden Island in Sydney, the Minor War Vessels Operational Test Director at the Royal Australian Navy Test, Evaluation and Acceptance Authority has served in the Navy for over 38 years.
Lieutenant Commander Koerber served with the United Nations Mission In South Sudan as part of his peacekeeping mission from October 2014 to April 2015.
He was one of three military liaison officers deployed with an Australian Defence Force contingent as part of Operation ASLAN.
“We served in the city of Juba, surrounding areas to the west, and also to the north along the White Nile, which was a real highlight, to be able to experience that area of South Sudan,” he said.
“Another highlight was meeting the local people and being able to liaise with the local military there so that we could move United Nations supplies throughout the country in support of the peacekeeping effort.”
Lieutenant Commander Koerber said one of the main things he learned on his deployment was the importance of listening.
“I noticed it seemed to be an African custom to listen to the person who was speaking and not interject, which is quite different in a lot of cases in our contemporary society,” he said.
Lieutenant Commander Koerber said he was there with a very supportive team.
“By working together, we were able to get through the difficult times, and also enjoy ourselves as well, so working with a capable and diverse tri-service team was very satisfying,” he said.
“I also briefed United Nations troop force protection contingents on the maritime safety aspects of working on board the river barges.”
Lieutenant Commander Koerber said a lot of people asked him about being a Navy bloke out in the middle of the desert.
“But they’ve got the White Nile, which is part of the Nile River system, and there’s a lot of water there, and since serving in the Navy is synonymous with water, I didn’t feel I was too far out of my depth,” he said.