Australian Army Captain Justin Pacione never imagined he would be leading a small team of multinational observers in Southern Lebanon when he joined the military in 2008.

The Cronulla local and NRL Sharks fan is Deployed on Operation Paladin as a United Nations Military Observer (UNMO).

Captain Pacione has recently been selected as a team leader and is privileged to lead a team of UNMOs from around the globe. 

 “The trust and responsibility invested in me for this role is something I do not take for granted, and continually challenges me on daily basis,” Captain Pacione said.

“Interacting and learning from my team mates, who come from so many diverse backgrounds, is the most enjoyable part of my job.”

Captain Pacione is part of the Australian Defence Force commitment to assist the UN implement its mandate to supervise the truce agreed in 1948 at the conclusion of the first Arab-Israeli War. 

 He said the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) operated in a very complicated and sensitive environment.

 “The area in which we patrol on a daily basis has seen numerous conflicts during both World Wars, including a rich Australian history,” Captain Pacione said.

“More recently, the 2006 conflict in Southern Lebanon and ongoing tension in the region creates a level of volatility that makes daily operations very challenging.

 Some of the local people are the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met.

“The added complexity of COVID-19 has forced us to be creative and come up with new and innovative ways in which we can still achieve our mission and mandate while keeping our mates safe.

“We conduct daily patrols in vehicles, on foot and occasionally in helicopters, along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.

“We also interact daily with the local population to gain an understanding of the atmospherics in the area. Some of the local people are the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met.”

UNTSO recently passed a milestone of 72 years of operations. Australia has been proudly contributing since 1956 and the role observers play on a daily basis directly contributes to the overall goal of peace in the Middle East.

“UNTSO is trusted and respected by the UN and the international community, Captain Pacione said.

“It is the professionalism and impartiality of the UNMOs on the ground that helps achieve this.”

Representing Australia and the United Nations on the strategic stage is just one of Captain Pacione’s achievements while deployed.

“Forming lifelong friendships with people from across the world has really given me a greater appreciation of the world and that the Australian way is not the only way,” he said.

“The multinational environment has given me the opportunity to question, develop and expand on my understanding of world issues and my role as a leader.”

Today marks International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which pays tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations.