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Postcard from Sinai

Christmas 2008. Sinai. Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Butterworth, incoming CO, is greeted by Lance Corporal Jon Thorne
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Butterworth, incoming CO, is greeted by Lance Corporal Jon Thorne. (WN08-0064-62)

1 January 2009

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) Sinai has existed for 27 years now, and many NZDF personnel have earned the orange, green and white medal ribbon serving there.

We are currently a 26-strong contingent, providing operations, training, engineer, transport, liaison and administrative expertise to the peacekeeping force, which was established to monitor and report the Egyptian and Israeli adherence to the 1979 Camp David Peace Treaty. The Force is as relevant today as it was then; both ‘Parties’ to the Treaty welcome our continued presence as a major stabilizing factor in the region and Egypt, in particular, benefits from the presence of the 11 troop-contributing nations on the Peninsula.

The current conflict in Gaza is on everyone’s minds this Christmas. We are close enough to hear the bombs, but far enough away to be out of harms way. The war within Israel’s borders is part of the continuing struggle to establish a lasting peace for the Palestinians and Israelis, but it is not part of the MFO mandate to have any role there; instead we are continuing with our routine reporting of activity in the military exclusion zones of Sinai.

Lt Col Pat Hibbs has returned to Waiouru after a year commanding the Kiwi Contingent, and has been replaced by Lt Col Patrick Butterworth. The fact that both have the same name has made the transition easier, since most people can at least remember the name ‘Pat’!  However, another PB has another nickname: ‘Paddy’, which has inspired the ADC, Flt Lt Barb Finlayson, LWTR ‘Shar’ Sciascia and Cpl ‘Hollie’ Hollis to become ‘Paddy’s Angels’. Particular skills include karaoke, Christmas tree decorating and cooking supper for 30, as well as combat pistol shooting and salsa.

All in the Contingent enjoyed the wonderful packages that arrived from NZ. Everyone had a secret Santa present, too, but it was great to receive care parcels from the RSA, which had lots of ‘must haves’ for Kiwis, including: Onion soup and reduced cream, Marmite, Bluebird chips/crisps, ginger nuts, fruit cake and other goodies. We are, rest assured, conducting regular PT (physical training) at 6am to combat the effects of those treats. The days fly by, and the constant turnover of personnel (a Kiwi rotation every 3 months) means there is no time to get complacent about the task at hand.

Some of the challenges we face on a daily basis are: donkeys on the road, sand drifts on the road, camels, and language barriers. Drivers need Spanish to talk to the Uruguay transport detachment, Liaison Officers need Arabic and Russian (to talk to the tourists), and the Deputy Chief Operations (Plans) needs Norwegian and American. We are all working hard on our Maori singing skills, too, since the cultural group is a strong part of our Contingent’s identity.

The MFO is a force that's evolving to meet modern day challenges. It’s existence is still little known, but its continued success lies in the commitment of 11 troop-contributing nations and the discipline they demonstrate in keeping the peace between Egypt and Israel. The MFO is as strong and effective today as it was 27 years ago.

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