Task Force South Sudan (TFSS) 19 – United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
Capt Shaun J. Rogozinski
Official Telephone Transcript from 22 Sep 22:
***Ring Ring Ring***
Rogo: “Hello, Shaun speaking.”
CO: “Oh sorry, I got the wrong number. I am looking for Rogo.”
Rogo: “Sir, this is Rogo!”
CO: “Oooooh right. How is South Sudan treating you? Still alive it sounds like?”
Rogo: “It’s a great life, Sir. It has been a challenge and the United Nations is literally the most-”
CO: “Listen man, I will get to the chase. I need an article for the website. We are getting some serious heat from above… Can you do this for me?”
Rogo: “Consider it done boss. Hope you and the Regiment are doing well. Hey, while I have you on the line, do you know the results of the promo-”
CO: “Listen man, I have some urgent CO-ing stuff to do with people at a place very soon. Send it to Kathy. Watch out for the Mambas and take care.”
Greetings from the Republic of South Sudan. Full disclosure, I have no proof the above phone call ever actually occurred, but I guarantee there are hints of truth in it. All jokes aside, I would like to share with the Regimental Family this pretty unique experience that the Regiment has given me. For us Captain types, a yearlong Canadian Joint Operations Command tour is difficult to get and it is even more challenging to get one with the United Nations. It is basically the unicorn of deployments. We hear about them now and then but few of us have ever actually ever met someone that has been on one.
What is Operation SOPRANO? That is a good question because I immediately thought it was in Italy and sipping sangria in Rome briefly flashed in front of my eyes. That was embarrassingly and woefully incorrect. This mission is the Individual Uniformed Personnel commitment of the Canadian Armed Forces to UNMISS. The pillars of the mission are: 1) Protection of Civilians, 2) Creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, 3) Supporting the implementation of the revitalized agreement and the peace process; and 4) Monitoring and investigating human right violations. To achieve this mission there are approximately 18,000 deployed personnel, of which around 14,000 are military. The military component of this mission is divided into a Force HQ (Division level) and six forward deployed Sector HQs (Brigade level).
The CAF team here consists of eight military personnel from across Canada and from several elements. In Bentiu, I serve as G4 Sector Unity. In this sector we have a Mongolian Infantry Battalion, Ghanian Infantry Battalion, Pakistani Engineering Company, Ghanian Force Protection Unit, Vietnam Level II Hospital, Indian Force Signals Unit, and a Cambodian Military Police Detachment. The greatest challenge we face here is that all lines of communication to this part of the country have been severed due to extreme flooding. This flooding has caused significant pain and suffering to those who call this region home. How bad is the flooding you might ask? It’s bad. In fact, our base and airstrip are protected by a series of dikes holding back around 160cm of flood water. We are also collocated with an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp which has well over 100,000 IDP. Everyday several humanitarian organizations work tirelessly to provide the basic needs of those displaced. I can honestly say that these are some of the kindest and most selfless people I have ever met.
The conditions of life as an officer on UN service here are challenging but it is a truly humbling experience. To see the international communities’ and government of South Sudan’s efforts with the provision of food, medical services, and security at this scale is something to behold. I continue to be enriched by the South Sudanese I interact with, the military staff officers I work with, and the civilian staff I collaborate with.
Finally, a sales pitch. I encourage all you Captain types to flood the Second-in-Command’s inbox with requests for this mission. Besides the unique nature of being on a UN mission, where else can you wear an Outside The Wire shirt (no need to do any buttons up), yellow rubber boots, a tan Patagonia rain jacket, and sidearm? As a disclaimer, I will never confirm nor deny any of that last sentence. I look forward to seeing you all again in the hallways of our Regiment or more preferably in the Mess with a leaky bottle of Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask. Take care my friends.