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Veteran Recalls First Tour Of Duty In 1978

Veteran Recalls First Tour Of Duty In 1978
Vetrans during the UN 40th Anniversary Celebrations Media Launch on June 4,2018.Photo:Simione Haravanua.
June 05
10:20 2018

A veteran Warrant Officer has praised the Government for equipping and ensuring the welfare of soldiers assigned for the peacekeeping duties in the Middle East.

Jitoko Soko, 73, of Nabuka, Ka­bara, Lau, is a former Warrant Of­ficer Class 1 and was in the first de­ployment to Lebanon under the UN Peacekeeping Mission in 1978.

He had joined the then Royal Fiji Military Forces (Now Republic of Fiji Military Forces) at the age of 33.

Mr Soko said back in those days when they left for the peacekeeping missions, they were not well pre­pared or equipped with the arms for security purpose like soldiers these days.

“Back then when we first became involved with peacekeeping, we were not well equipped with equip­ment to protect us and the people,” he said.

“But now our soldiers are very for­tunate because the Government has provided them with everything that we had lacked in the past.”

He said the experience of peace­keeping then was very new for them because they had prepared without knowing what the situation in their mission area would be.

“We also missed our families, the environment and the food,” Mr Soko said.

“It was a good experience for us as soldiers to overcome such obsta­cles.”

While sharing his experience, Mr Soko said in 1978, when they reached Lebanon, Fiji had taken over from the French battalion.

During that time Lebanese people could not move around freely or come outside of their house because of the volatile situation.

“Sounds of gun fire was heard around us when we reached our mission destination. It was some­thing new for many of us,” Mr Soko said.

“However, when the Fijian Battal­ion took over peacekeeping duties, the neighbourhood was lively again as they started to come out of their houses and sell food on the streets.

“We were scared and frightened when we first experienced the situ­ation. But within a few weeks we got used to it.

“The first tour of duty was for six months. We always looked forward to come back home to our families, especially when facing some tough situations in Lebanon.”

Edited by Percy Kean


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