On the road in South Sudan

Published on MAJ Bradley Richardson (author)

Topic(s): Operation ASLAN

Royal Australian Navy officer, Lieutenant Rene van Rooyen at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. (photo: Unknown)
Royal Australian Navy officer, Lieutenant Rene van Rooyen at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Redcliffe born and raised Navy logistics officer Lieutenant Rene Van Rooyen is one of 19 Australian Defence Force members deployed on Operation ASLAN as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

With the wet season approaching and its threat to road resupply, Lieutenant Van Rooyen said she was working to deliver services that made the lives of the local population better.

“The best part of my job is providing facilities that will make sure locals have drinking water, ablutions and a roof over their heads,” Lieutenant Van Rooyen said.

“I provide advice and planning to enable UNMISS to deliver on its mandate, including new bases, accommodation, international displaced persons camp and hospital upgrades.

“I travel across the country, surveying potential sites to build new camps.

“It’s a team effort with engineering, communications, medical, operations and aviation capabilities.”

Australia is one of 62 nations committed to UNMISS. Its UN Security Council mandate is to protect civilians, support the peace process, support delivery of humanitarian aid, and report on human rights abuses.

“I work directly with staff from New Zealand, Rwanda, India and Canada,” Lieutenant Van Rooyen said.

With such a diverse mix of nations and functions, Lieutenant Van Rooyen said working and socialising with many different people had been a great cultural experience.

“I love the uniqueness of working with the UN, using our different experiences and strengths to get the job done,” she said.

“I am working closely with the medical team within the mission in order to logistically support an upgrade to the hospital at UN base Tomping.

“My job requires me to be flexible as the environment in South Sudan is ever changing, especially with the wet season looming and a lot of our logistics relying on roads.

“My deployment has taught me so much about the power of people and we need to work together for the less fortunate to have a better quality of life.”

Back home, Lieutenant Van Rooyen is based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney to support the fleet of Mine Hunter coastal boats.

She was looking forward to returning with her new experiences.

“I have learnt so much about myself on this deployment. It is a life changing experience that I never thought would affect me so positively,” Lieutenant Van Rooyen said.

“I am looking forward using what I have learnt to better myself as a military professional. I am also looking forward to fresh fruit and vegetables, the beach and catching up with my family and friends.”

L-R: Royal Australian Navy officer, Lieutenant Rene van Rooyen; Australian Air Force officer, Squadron Leader Erin Fryer; and Canadian UN Member Captain Brenton Chapman, during an Anzac Day service at UN Tomping in Juba, South Sudan, 25 April 2020.

L-R: Royal Australian Navy officer, Lieutenant Rene van Rooyen; Australian Air Force officer, Squadron Leader Erin Fryer; and Canadian UN Member Captain Brenton Chapman, during an Anzac Day service at UN Tomping in Juba, South Sudan, 25 April 2020.