Medal Parade of Deputy Force Commander Brigadier General Maureen O'Brien, 05 February 2021
After 16 months of her 18 month tour of duty in UNDOF, Brigadier General Maureen O'Brien of Ireland's Defence Forces today received her UN Service Medal in a small, Covid-19 adherent ceremony in Camp Faouar, Syria. Force Commander and Head of Mission Lieutenant General Ishwar Hamal presented her with her medal in a scaled-back ceremony and congratulated her on a extremely succesful mission. He also personally thanked her for her tenure as Acting Force Commander from October 2019 to July 2020, and for helping him learn into the role of Force Commander and Head of Mission.
Brigadier General O'Brien welcomed the opportunity to say a few words to her fellow UNDOF colleagues:
"I am very grateful and humbled to be here with you today, and I thank you all for your attendance. During the many medal parades I have attended since my arrival in the mission I have always remarked to the soldiers receiving their medals, that every medal parade is both significant and memorable, and this is also true for me, particularly as this is probably the last medal I will receive in my military career.
As I finally reach this milestone in my tour of duty here in The Golan, it is time for me to not only focus on finishing the mission here, as I have started, but also to reflect on the past year and a half.
Looking back to Sept 2019 when I first arrived, the mission, and indeed the whole world, were both very different. The past 18 months have presented challenges and opportunities alike, and I am proud to say that we have weathered every storm and proven ourselves to be a highly resilient and adaptable force.
During my tenure as A/FC and DFC, I have endeavored to maintain positive and cohesive relations with our strategic partners UNTSO in the furtherance of our mission mandate, and the implementation of the strategic return plan to the Bravo side; and also to maintain constructive relations with authorities on both the Alpha and Bravo side, where mutual trust and accountability is to the fore. I believe that we have been successful in this regard, and that while the progress of the strategic return plan is slow, progress is being made and it will continue into the future under the Force Commanders Leadership, further enhancing our ability to deliver on our mandate.
It gave me great pride to see how we as a small mission rose to the challenge presented by the global COVID 19 pandemic, and to see how we as soldiers and civilians alike worked together tirelessly to protect our personnel, while continuing to deliver on our mission mandate through very difficult circumstances. This would not have been achieved without a strong sense of common purpose, and dedicated professionalism from each and every one of us. I am proud to say that even when we were presented with the challenge of a large-scale outbreak, the systems and procedures we put in place to deal with such an event proved effective, and our professional and diligent staff proved themselves equal to the challenge.
In my tenure as both A/FC and DFC, I have had the pleasure to know and work with people from all corners of the world, from 9 different countries. I feel privileged to have known and worked with so many good people, in what is a highly diverse mission. We may speak different languages and have different customs, but our support of the UN values gives us all something in common and unite us towards our common goal. It has been an honour to learn more about your various individual cultures, traditions and your heritage. Our diversity is one of our many strengths, and it helps to broaden our perspectives in the performance of our duties.
To conclude, I wish to thank you all for your professionalism, your dedication to your duty, your loyalty, and for your friendship. I am honoured and privileged to have served with you all. I wish you every success in the remainder of your mission here in The Golan under the leadership of Lt Gen Hamal, and in your future careers.
I will leave you with what is an old traditional Irish blessing:
May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home,
May good and faithful friends be yours wherever you may roam,
May peace and plenty bless your world, with joy that long endures,
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours.
See the full gallery here.