Colonel Mark Coyle handed command of Operation Aslan, Australia’s contribution to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to Colonel Tom Nairn on December 4.

The ADF contingent in South Sudan comprises up to 20 personnel from the Navy, Army and Air Force who fill key military liaison, operations, aviation and logistics support positions.

Colonel Nairn said he was looking forward to his nine-month deployment.

“It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to command a dedicated group of Australians who have made, and continue to make, a significant commitment to building peace and stability in a fragile and complex region,” Colonel Nairn said.

“I’m also looking forward to working not just with Australians, but a committed multi-national team of military, civilian and police members to address the challenges that South Sudan faces.”

Colonel Nairn praised Colonel Coyle for his 12 months of outstanding leadership.

“Colonel Coyle and his team have clearly achieved a great deal and made a truly significant contribution,” Colonel Nairn said.

South Sudan became the newest country in the world in July 2011 after a six-year peace process ended more than 20 years of conflict between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Serving in the youngest nation in the world to help them realise the dream of independence and democratic rule cannot be understated.

Colonel Coyle said he was proud to have had the opportunity to command Operation Aslan.

“While any deployment is rewarding, this deployment has special meaning,” Colonel Coyle said.

“Serving in the youngest nation in the world to help them realise the dream of independence and democratic rule cannot be understated.”

Colonel Coyle said those who wore the UN blue beret had a common bond.

“What they do is made extraordinary by the fact they volunteer for something that others either cannot do or will not do. It's truly amazing,” Colonel Coyle said.

“For those who served in UNMISS, they can all leave with a sense of accomplishment and with full knowledge that their actions, either as a staff officer or a military observer, saved countless lives and forged a foundation on which the fledgling country is building a true democracy.”

Operation Aslan began in September 2011 when ADF personnel transitioned from Operation Azure that was a part of the former United Nations Mission in Sudan.

UNMISS helps protect the people of South Sudan through the monitoring of human rights and the delivery of humanitarian aid.