A contingent of 14 service members from the Chilean Army and Navy are in the final preparation stages to deploy with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The officers and noncommissioned officers will be part of the 32nd Chilean contingent to support the peacekeeping mission on the Mediterranean island. They will join the Argentine Task Force and assume their official positions in Cyprus in early September.
As part of preparations, service members attended the UNFICYP 32 Pre-deployment Course at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center (CECOPAC, in Spanish) of the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff. The academic and hands-on two-week course was held at the end of June.
The course allowed the Chilean contingent—seven troops from the Navy and seven from the Army—to acquire the necessary skills to perform their duties during the six-month mission. The course kicked off with information on the conceptual framework of the United Nations, as well as background and mandate of UNFICYP. “Then, students learned about the specific operational tasks they will carry on at UNFICYP,” Chilean Navy Lieutenant Commander Raúl Torres Ramos, head of CECOPAC’s Faculty Department, told Diálogo.
In addition to providing an overview of the mission, the course taught blue helmets’ “golden rules” and code of conduct with a focus on human rights. The course also delved on how to face specific situations, such as armed threats, reconnaissance operations, and air insertions, among others.
“The course, although prepared for deployments specific to UNFICYP, features highly trained and experienced instructors who participated in different missions worldwide,” Chilean Army Lieutenant José Rojas Cotroneo, part of UNFICYP 32, told Dialogo. “We learn parameters to be able to react in any situation that might disrupt the ceasefire.”
Students put what they learned to the test in a training field with simulated scenarios. CECOPAC instructors executed and supervised the activities that prepared units for deployment.
“It enables us to apply the knowledge obtained to decision-making in the field,” Lt. Rojas said. “It’s very important to know how to react in an unknown scenario, where any of our actions or reactions might create a situation with serious consequences.”
Joint combined force
Chile’s participation in the peacekeeping mission dates back to 1999, when Chilean diplomat James Holger Blair was appointed as head of UNFICYP for a year. In 2001, Chile deployed a marine with the Argentine Task Force in Cyprus as an observer and to conduct surveillance tasks in the security zone. In 2003, as a result of agreements between Chile and Argentina, a combined deployment started with a joint military force.
“The main challenges in this mission are related to operational requirements of the military contingent, as our country collaborates with the Argentine Task Force,” said Chilean Army Lieutenant Colonel Javier Cuevas Leiva, chief of Information for Peacekeeping Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Operations and Joint Command Department. “This transforms missions into a joint-combined work environment, which undoubtedly requires our contingent to expand their knowledge and doctrinal framework.”
Established in 1964, UNFICYP seeks to put an end to the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots of the Mediterranean island. Both groups dispute a 1,274-square-mile territory in the far north of Cyprus, under the control of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
For Chile, UNFICYP contributes to national projection abroad as a country actively participating in peacekeeping operations. The joint-combined character of the mission also generates unique experiences that strengthen the Chilean Armed Forces’ capabilities.
“The Chilean participation in UNFICYP is very important for members of the Armed Forces,” said Chilean Marine Corps First Sergeant Antonio Salas Lira, who will deploy with the 32nd contingent. “In other words, we can say that it’s a ‘mother’ peacekeeping operation, whose goal is to provide all the humanitarian assistance the United Nations deems appropriate.”
In addition to UNFICYP, Chilean service members served in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, the United Nations Mission in Colombia, and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. Chilean officers also took part in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan.
“Any challenge in life demands a level of preparation and training to face it in the best way possible, and Chile’s participation in UNFICYP is a way to achieve this,” Lt. Rojas said. “It will allow us to make decisions based on experience, with results at the personal and professional levels, and most of all as representatives of our country.”