Cheryl Pearce - Finding the balance

Running time
4 min 50 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


We ran 24/7 operations. Of my 800, we'd be do in the patrolling... We had a patrolling program. We didn't have sufficient to be static. We'd have observation posts, but we'd be a lot of moving by either foot or vehicle. And we'd concentrate in particular hotspots and areas that were of concern, and the tensions that were there. But I'd have briefings.

First up in the morning, I'd have an ops briefing, which when you talk about a multinational force, it is always interesting. And of the 14, probably only about six had English as their first language, everyone else was second. So you're trying to communicate in a way that... And Cyprus is an English-speaking mission. So it's always, I have it with a smile about language and how important it is. And our vernacular, as Australians, and me really having to simplify some of the sayings we have down to just communicating clearly, and concisely, and really understanding the strength of SOPs, or the standard-operating procedures, so we could actually conduct ops.

And so we would have an update every morning. And I would be either working as part of the senior management group as part of a whole of mission approach, trying to support the SRSG in achieving the political outcome. I had a really robust engagement program with the Turkish forces commander or the Greek Cypriot National Guard commander. And I'd be out on the road a lot, engaging with the troops on the ground, engaging with my commands. I also had an aviation capability, a military police capability, engineer capability, and a force reserve.

So it was generally engaging in an operational sense, but then very quickly could work strategically and politically with the whole of the mission. And with civil society, I'd often go out in doing engagements with civil society. We'd have issues about pilgrimages, religious pieces. Working with the diplomatic community because they were there to try and support the Republic of Cyprus and the leadership in the North to find a political solution and a way forward. So it was a lot of engagement that occurred.

I would spend most of the day operationally focused with some political. And then afternoon and evening would be political and diplomatic. So it was a very political mission. But to keep the calm stability to be able to achieve that political outcome was really difficult. It was a legacy mission. Both sides knew where the seams were with the UN, how to try and gain traction. So what they were saying politically did not often resonate with what we saw on the ground. And it was really strategically working through the engagement program with the two opposing forces to try and deescalate, deescalate, deescalate, because we were unarmed.

Our mandate was an armed force, but in the '90s they had elected to go unarmed, and so our weapons were in the armoury. And I could have escalated if that was my call and I could have re-armed, but politically, there was no appetite to do so. So it was how to find the balance between the protection of your force and supporting the political outcomes. And that was something that was always in the back of my mind.

Because when you're patrolling, and if you've got two opposing forces on the ground, and you've got conscripts at 18, 19 from both countries, and you're walking around or in a vehicle patrolling, especially by night, and you hear a weapon cock, and you're unarmed and we're not wearing helmet and vest, you are literally... You got the blue beret. What I'm asking my soldiers to do was high risk. So it was low threat, but there was certainly a high risk. And so it was trying to find that sweet spot in achieving the presence, and achieving the engagement, but not to the detriment of the safety of the troops. And holding and trying to deescalate the tensions at all levels.

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