Knowledge is key: Canadian officer analyzes Buffer Zone violations for the UN Force in Cyprus

Two soldiers shake hands
Major Soo Choi (right) completed her deployment on Operation SNOWGOOSE on July 20, 2018. She is being replaced by Lieutenant (Navy) Jeffrey Leung (left), a Logistics Officer. (Photo: UNFICYP)

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By Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs

In a mission with a 54-year history, knowledge is key: who exactly are the parties to the conflict? How have they evolved over time? What are the opposition forces doing now? Who is violating the Buffer Zone and the agreements in place?

Answering those questions—and analyzing their implications—was Major Soo Choi’s job during Operation SNOWGOOSE. She supported the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for one year.

“I got here in July 2017, just following the conclusion of two years of unsuccessful negotiations to resolve the Cyprus problem,” said Major Choi. “A strategic review team was directed to find efficiencies within UNFICYP while maintaining the same capabilities.”

Major Choi assisted with that mission review. Gathering reports from the different sectors, she looked at the statistics and trends. All of that information, carefully gathered and analysed, was fed into the mission review.

She also helped work on a project to create a document to direct all the activity in the Buffer Zone, a demilitarized zone that was established in 1964 and extended in 1974. The project is still in progress.

Also known as the Green Line, the Buffer Zone stretches for 180 kilometres across the island-nation. In some parts of old Nicosia it is only a few meters wide, while in other areas it is a few kilometers wide.

UNFICYP has worked hard to help residents of Cyprus, particularly those near the Buffer Zone, return to normal conditions; things have come a long way from the hostilities of the summer of 1974. That being said, there are approximately 1000 incidents within the buffer zone each year, from minor name-calling to unauthorized use of firearms.

“With such a longstanding mission and protracted conflict, information management is crucial, not only for efficiency and consistency but also for credibility,” said Major Choi. “While we keep our own archives of decisions made and incidents that occurred, the opposing forces that we’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis maintain their own. If we have inaccurate or a lack of information, we risk losing credibility.”

For Major Choi, the operation gave her a newfound appreciation for the importance on information management. However, her favourite part of the operation was working in a multinational environment.

With over 1000 personnel from 22 countries, there were many opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another.

“The diversity of experience and cultural background really contributed to the richness of the headquarters,” said Major Choi. “While I might instinctively look at a problem with a certain lens, others had valuable insight into other approaches to problem solving.”

That international partnership extended outside of regular duties.

“We gathered the female peacekeepers from across the sectors and met with the U.S. Marine and Navy female engagement team on the USS Iwo Jima,” said Major Choi. “After touring the ship we chatted about various duties, challenges et cetera, and generally bonded over our roles in the service of security.”

Major Choi completes her deployment on Operation SNOWGOOSE on July 20, 2018. She is being replaced by Lieutenant (Navy) Jeffrey Leung, a Logistics Officer from Toronto, Ontario.

Image gallery

  • Three military officers stand together in formal attire
  • A white United Nations vehicle is parked in a field
  • A row of female military members stands on a ship’s deck
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