United Nations Military Observers
21 July 2014
The idea of patrolling or observing in a potentially hostile environment unarmed may be a strange concept to most wearing a military uniform but for members taking part in United Nations (UN) operations this is exactly what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Captain (CAPT) Aaron Cimbaljevic is currently deployed on Op PALADIN where he is a UN Military Observer (UNMO) as part of the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) which was formed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
CAPT Cimbaljevic said it was a great opportunity to work with other military forces from around the world.
"There are 24 countries taking part in UNTSO so this means working with UNMO’s from a variety of backgrounds and experiences," he said.
"More importantly, it affords credibility with host nations by maintaining an unbiased view of the mission."
In comparison to traditional deployments, Australian UNMOs are not only representing Australia but also the UN and this can be seen daily with members wearing the standard Australian camouflage uniform but donning the well-known blue UN beret or cap.
CAPT Cimbaljevic said being unarmed in a potentially high-threat environment inevitably brought a degree of uncertainty for a military officer used to carrying a weapon.
"Although you start with that uncertainty it is quickly removed after completing the UNTSO training package," he said.
Upon arriving in Israel all UNMOs are presented with an information package before commencing an in-depth training program that requires them to learn and memorise everything from weapons and vehicles to the name of every road in their area of operations.
Once an UNMO is mission ready their tasks include static operations, inspections, mobile operations and special investigations when required. However, at the moment UNTSO does not conduct mobile operations or inspections in Syria due to the ongoing conflict.
After being an UNMO for six months, CAPT Cimbaljevic is about to be appointed as a team leader. He said he was glad he pursued the deployment on Op PALADIN.
"Working as an UNMO is an excellent experience," he said.
"Being part of this is truly an adventure."
UNSTO was established in 1948 to supervise the truce agreed at the conclusion of the first Arab/Israeli War. Since 1956, members of the Australian contingent have been employed in a variety of roles, including staff officers in the UNTSO Headquarters in Jerusalem and as military observers throughout the region.