Job profile: military peacekeepers

27 11 2011

Working in the military is not an easy profession, especially for those who have to spend a lot of time abroad. How much do we really know about the work of soldiers? Surely not enough! The military lifestyle – because it’s more a lifestyle than merely a job – is an honourable one that helps to provide security for a country and its population. More than simply a 9-to-5 activity, it’s a profession that many feel deep down in their hearts. It’s not a typical kind of job and it can be hard for others to imagine exactly what these military workers go through. Thus, this post aims to give you a little insight into the lives of two military men who are both active in peacekeeping missions abroad.

The first interview is with a helicopter pilot who has recently returned from a three-month mission in Afghanistan. We talked to him about what it’s like to serve his country both here and overseas…

Q: Why do you like your job?
A: I like my job because even though it doesn’t lead to something material, it serves the people and provides security. My kind of work is something you do for others, not for yourself.

Q: Which school did you go to that made it possible to be in your position?
A: I studied at military academy because it gives you the best preparation for this kind of job.

Q: Many people think that soldiers on missions earn a lot of money. Would you say this is true?
A: [laughing] How much?! I’m not interested in rumours, but I have to say that so far I’ve never seen a rich soldier. Certain things are not done for money!

Q: In general, how is the life of a group in a barrack, and more specifically, during a mission?
A: You must have patience. Everyone has their own needs and preferences and you shouldn’t judge their faults, just accept them. Only in this way can we learn to live with each other. Especially on missions, the group gives you the strength to do things you can’t do alone.

Q: Fortunately, this Christmas you’ll be in your home country. What do you want to do?
A: Obviously, I want to spend time with my family and relax.

Q: What do you do in Afghanistan at Christmas?
A: I work, just like every other day!

Q: How do you live with the feat of spending three months here and three months on mission, then three months back here and three months on mission again?
A: This is not easy to deal with.

Q: How has your job changed you?
A: This is a profession that requires commitment in every aspect and it changes you deeply… but in the end, we’re human beings just like everyone else.

Q: When I say, “Afghanistan”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
A: Our work in Afghanistan is a peace mission. It’s very complicated but satisfying.

Q: Thinking of all your missions past and future, do you sometimes feel afraid?
A: Only a crazy person would have no fear!

Q: Now a tricky question: How do you deal with the death of your friends and colleagues?
A: Sorry, I’d rather not answer that.

Q: Sorry! Last question: Is there anything you’d like to change?
A: I wish more people appreciated the role of people like us who are not in the spotlight. We continually serve the country both here and abroad, working constantly and quietly on peacekeeping missions, helping with earthquakes, floods and so on. I think it’s the noblest work that exists.

Thank you. We’re proud of you!


In the second interview, we asked an army officer about all things mission-related…

Q: How often do you go on missions?
A: About once every two years.

Q: Where have you been sent so far in your military career?
A: I’m currently on my second mission in Afghanistan. The other missions I’ve performed were in the Balkans and I also went to Senegal once, but only for training.

Q: What’s the longest time you’ve served abroad?
A: The missions I do are usually for about six months each time.

Q: How do you pack for a mission?
A: I always make a list of all the things I need to take, but packing for my current mission was particularly difficult because there aren’t any shops near the base, so I had to think of all the things I would need for a six month stay. As well as my uniforms, casual clothes and military gear, I also had to bring enough toothpaste, soap, shampoo, vitamins, etc. for half a year… and it all had to weigh less than 50 kg in total!

Q: What’s a typical day for you?
A: I work during the day so the hours are quite normal, just long. I get up in the morning, have breakfast, work for about five hours, have a short lunch break and work for another five or six hours. Theoretically, we should have a day or two off during the week, but in reality we often work every day.

Q: How do you stay fit while you’re on missions?
A: I use the gym on base and go running a few times a week. Unfortunately I can’t go swimming or cycling here because there aren’t the facilities to do so.

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: We don’t have a lot of spare time here, but I packed a pile of books to read and I relax by watching movies on my laptop.

Q: When you’re abroad, what do you miss the most?
A: I miss my family, my friends, socialising while drinking a cold beer, and sleeping in my own bed.

Q: How do you keep in touch with people?
A: Fortunately, thanks to email, facebook and skype, it’s not difficult to keep in contact with people nowadays.

www.forzadelsud.it

Thank you to the two interviewees for this illuminating insight
into the military lifestyle!

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Thank you, boys!

13 01 2011

Although this article was received a bit late, we thought it was well worth including for our readers.

We commonly imagine Christmas day as a day to spend with the whole family. But if we look around, we discover that it is not so for everyone. Let’s not forget the busy soldiers on foreign missions! Will their Christmas and New Year be like ours? No, and not for their families either.

The pride of representing the tricoloured flag will not make up for the affection they’ll miss from their loved ones. The fact is that Italy remains in the front line in peace missions. While those choose this line of work know the pros and cons of the job, not spending holidays with loved ones isn’t easy for anyone.

There will be a tree and a nativity for the contingents in their ‘second family’, but day and night the soldiers are busy on missions that none of us can imagine or even know about (because every telephone call is monitored).

Thanks to the internet, we can share moments of happiness and the illusion of closeness using instant videocall from every corner of the world; so from a small Italian village a mother can see her son in Afghanistan, an American child can smile to her dad in Iraq and a Spanish woman can send a kiss to her husband in Kosovo. At the very least, this is an improvement to the past. To hear each other as if not so far away and to forget, for few minutes, that their dear ones are not with them, but on the contrary to hear and see them close by through a desktop computer.

Maybe Christmas presents will remain under the tree and in the morning, like all mornings, and in the evenings, for weeks, months, maybe even years, the family will feel incomplete, and a tear will slide down their faces. But also, feeling a bit special, they can do nothing else but to say,

“Thank you, boys!”

And I personally want to say with all my heart, to my brother in Afghanistan,

“Merry Christmas and happy new year, dear. I’m proud of you!”

 

by Maria Rossini, upper intermediate