Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of military life is being stationed far away from home, family and friends for long periods of time.
The 140 elite men and women of the 5th China Formed Police Unit to United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) just completed a year-long mission in Liberia in West Africa.
Liberia is more than 11,000 kilometers away from China and adjusting to life that far away from home was extremely difficult for many of the members of the unit.
Commander Lan Weiyu says keeping the team focused on the peacekeeping mission wasn’t easy especially when members heard good and sometimes bad news from home.
“Our team members are far away from home, away when family members get sick or even get a new born baby. In fact six team members lost their fathers during out time in Liberia,” Commander Lan said.
“It became crucial for us to ensure maintain stable minds no matter the situation back home.”
However Logistics Commander Yang Yuanfang, whose name means ‘far away from home’ saw the distance and the different way of life in Liberia as challenges to overcome.
“This year’s work, was a great challenge for our logistics team, Liberia is a tough and complex country, “said Yang.
“We are lucky we achieved our goals of zero infections of members, through tough healthcare policies, no casualties, and the team keeps fit through exercise after dinner.”
Yang says the mission has broadened his thinking and enriched his abilities and improved persistence at work.
“We had scarce resources when we arrived, there was disease and water was scarce. We did some research so we could build a home where everyone will feel at home. We made many adjustments, to provide team members a very safe and comfortable living environment.”
Commander Lan said simple things helped – like a good meal that reminded the Chinese peacekeepers of home. The unit addressed those problems by planting 15 different types of vegetables , raising pigs and chickens on their base and renovating their barracks in Monrovia to look more like China.
The monthly birthday parties were a big help also.
But with the mission wrapping up the peacekeepers can look forward to celebrating birthdays back in China with their family and friends while looking back fondly on the friends they made and the lives they touched while serving their country and the people of Liberia.