At the beginning of January, I completed the 5-day pre-mission briefing with the Swiss Armed Forces International Command for my next deployment as a peacekeeper. Starting in August 2020, I will serve for 12 months as a Military Observer in the oldest UN mission, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East.
I will report to mission headquarters in Jerusalem, and then I’ll learn where I will be stationed. It will most likely be either on the Golan Heights (either the Israeli or Syrian side) or in Southern Lebanon.
As unarmed UN Military Observers (UNMOs), we are trained to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region.
We are all seasoned officers of the rank of captain or major, coming from all branches of service in our respective countries’ armed forces. I will be serving alongside 152 other officers (including at least 15 female officers) from 26 nations including Australia, Bhutan, Chile, Fiji, Gambia, Finland, India, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, and the United States.
We always work in multi-national teams, so that any observations are confirmed by at least two observers from different nations to guarantee impartiality.
After my deployment, I will to return to Seattle to my family and my speaking business.
There are three main reasons for me to leave my life in Seattle and seek out this new challenge:
1. Making a meaningful contribution for a better world: As a citizen and resident of the privileged western world, I view it as my obligation to give back and make an ever-so-small personal contribution to those who are less privileged, in particular those who suffer in armed conflicts.
2. New challenge: I am looking forward to fulfilling the mission in a truly global team of fellow officers in an unknown environment. While I have no doubt this won’t always be easy, I am very much looking forward to the new challenges ahead. I am also looking forward to digging deep into the history of the region and getting a much better understanding of the past and current conflicts in the Middle East.
3. Gaining new leadership experience: I am excited about engaging in close collaboration with my fellow officers from all over the globe. I’ll be working with local military and civilian leaders as well as taking on leadership responsibilities. I have no doubt that I will gain new, valuable leadership experience that will be personally enriching and will serve me well in my future work as a Leadership Speaker.
As with every change, there are inevitable downsides as well:
Away from my family: I will be away from my two sons, (12 and 14) for twelve months. While I will have some home leave during the deployment, it will be difficult for all of us to be apart for that long. In order to ease the separation, we are planning to communicate regularly via Skype/phone/text/email.
While I communicated my reasons for pursuing this opportunity early and openly with my family, they are sad to have me gone for that long, as I’ll be sad to be away from them.
Away from my business: I will have to scale my speaking business down during my absence. Having to turn down engagements for wonderful – and in some cases long-term — clients because of my absence is tough. Fortunately, I have a strong network of colleagues I can refer out to. Upon my return in August 2021, I will need to scale my business back up, which no doubt will require time and energy.
Between now and my departure in August I am focusing on re-branding my speaking business, preparing for the mission by reading up on all aspects of the Middle East conflicts and by spending lots of quality time with my two boys. This coming week we will be traveling to Switzerland to ski in Davos and Zermatt. I can’t wait!