On-Site Reports from Our Peacekeepers

About My Colleagues and Goals

Major Yoichiro Rokutan
 UNDOF Senior Staff Officer, Logistics

It is when I share a goal with my colleagues and accomplish it—often crossing the boundaries of nationalities as well as those between the military and civilians while doing so—that I feel most fulfilled in UN peacekeeping operations.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force ( UNDOF ) is a relatively small UN peacekeeping mission, comprised of about 1,200 military personnel and civilians, and has been in the Golan Heights for 37 years(since 1974). Its mandates are to monitor the observance of the ceasefire and to supervise the implementation of the agreement on disengagement between the Syrian and Israeli forces. Japan's transport units provide logistic support for the > UNDOF activities. These supports include transporting daily supplies, repairing muddy roads (after rain and snow), and clearing snow at 2,800m-elevation (and above). In addition, Japan dispatches three staff officers, one of which is me. Japanese staff officers are assigned to the > UNDOF headquarters every year, and engage in planning and coordination assignments in each section with military personnel and civilians from other countries.

I'm all ears when my boss gives me orders!(img)

I'm all ears when my boss gives me orders!

I have been working as the Senior Staff Officer, Logistics, at the Integrated Support Services ( ISS ). ISS has been in charge of logistic support for > UNDOF in general since February 2011. It consists of the Transport & Maintenance Section, Support Section, Engineering Section, Geographic Information System Cell, Medical Branch, and the ISS Command, which coordinates all these divisions. My main task is to coordinate the divisions under the direction of civilian Chief and military Deputy Chief. I am also the contact person for all units in need of logistic support, which gives me ample opportunities to interact with a variety of people of all nationalities, military and civilian. I found this experience to be the most rewarding aspect of my work here.

I am proud of my role as a technical inspector as well. > UNDOF has two camps and 21 positions, in all of which peacekeepers stay, and engage in monitoring and disengagement assignments. The technical inspection aims to check work progress based on the regulations by visiting every camp and position. We usually spend several days at each camp and position. My colleagues and I discuss the challenges they are facing in order to improve > UNDOF 's logistic support policy. I planned the inspections and visited all the positions with other inspectors in my capacity as the chief inspector.

Inspection scene 1(img)

Inspection scene 1

Inspection scene 2(img)

Inspection scene 2

When we visited a position for inspection, it was not unusual that we detected damage to buildings, lack of supplies and deserted equipment. I often asked my colleagues why they did not really do anything about these damages. Their response was, "I don't know what to do," or, "We've been making requests to the headquarters, but no response." The units typically rotate every six months. So, to some extent, it is understandable that they are unfamiliar with the UN 's practice and rules. Sometimes, budgetary and market factors do not allow headquarters to provide units on the ground with adequate services. Our inspections shed light on such problems, and we gave units detailed explanations on formalities and discussed solutions with the inspection team members together.

Shortly after the inspections, the situations started to improve little by little, thanks to the efforts of each division. For instance, the barracks of a unit was equipped with brand-new furniture, including TVs and sofas; drain facilities were being provided in a position that fought back against mud during the rainy season; and another unit that had been warned of the poor management of its arsenal cleaned it up immaculately, thus improving its working efficiency.

Everything related to inspection is messy and everyone in the world hates it. To say nothing of the units inspected, inspectors from each division are compelled to spare some time from their busy schedules. Therefore, I initially found it difficult to gain cooperation from others. I sometimes confronted lack of my understanding of UN rules, the cultural gap, and the organizational difference between the military and civilians. However, I found that the inspectors eventually worked much more cooperatively and actively than before. I believe that it is because they saw the positive change-improvement of their working and living conditions-through inspections. This experience provided me with a chance to feel fulfilled when I succeed in crossing the boundaries of nationalities and between the military and civilians, to share goals with my colleagues, and to accomplish them.

Briefing inspection results(img)

Briefing inspection results

With our inspection team and an inspected unit(img)

With our inspection team and an inspected unit

The work I've introduced here is only a part of my duties. To provide sufficient logistic support for UNDOF activities as the Senior Logistic Staff in a wide range of work, I am determined to share my goals with many of my colleagues and to make further efforts until the last day of my assignment.

Honor from Chief of Staff(img)

Honor from Chief of Staff

In the Golan Heights on August 8, 2011