On International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, Squadron Leader Karl Woodward took a moment to reflect on a pivotal deployment to South Sudan. 

He is presently deployed to the Australian Defence Force's Operation Accordion in the Middle East.

However, Squadron Leader Woodward took a moment to think back to his life-changing deployment to South Sudan with the United Nations in 2015.

United Nations Peacekeepers have contributed personnel to the UN Mission in South Sudan since 2011.

Squadron Leader Woodward said peacekeeping was an eye-opening and rewarding challenge.

"I remember arriving in the capital, Juba, and seeing trucks rolling around with weapons on the back - the guys in them just wearing singlets and thongs,” Squadron Leader Woodward said.

“It was a shock to the system. It set the tone for what I would experience over the next six months.”

His primary role was to look after the Australian contingent’s sustainment requirements, which were challenging during the rainy season when roads were cut and helicopter supply became the norm.

“From supply and sustainment, including food and weapons, to welfare – we did it. We also helped provide communication back home and to National Headquarters Command,” Squadron Leader Woodward said.

Flying by helicopter to work in the Greater Jonglei town of Bor was a unique experience he will never forget.

“We were able to conduct vehicle and foot patrols with the United Nations police in the local area, including the displacement camps,” he said. 

“I remember walking around the refugee camp, seeing children with not a lot, just a couple of soccer balls.

“It was amazing to see that despite the war-like circumstance around them, they were so happy to be able to talk and laugh with us. We were able to hang around for a bit and kick a ball with them - it was cool. 

“Overall my deployment with the United Nations was life-changing. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.”

Squadron Leader Woodward is on his third deployment since joining the ADF, providing personnel operations support to the Air Task Group Headquarters at Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East. 

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers pays tribute to those who have worn the blue beret. It honours the more than 3900 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the United Nation’s flag since 1948.