WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 20, 2013) -- Just back from 15 months in West Africa, Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen said he was honored to have served as the force chief of staff for the United Nations Mission in Liberia.
Van Roosen said U.S. participation in missions such as United Nations Mission in Liberia, or UNMIL, highlights the importance the United States places on global peacekeeping efforts, and allows the military to share its exceptional expertise.
"The U.S. continuing to demonstrate a commitment to U.N. peacekeeping shows that we are indeed a partner in a worldwide sense in an area that many other countries consider extremely important," he said.
His assignment, which began in June 2012, entailed following the mandate of the U.N. mission to maintain peace and security; transitioning or downsizing the size of the military force; and building the capacity of the Liberian armed forces, he said.
"The mission was constantly challenging," he said.
Van Roosen, who spoke Sept. 13, 2013, during in an interview at the Pentagon, is currently the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Following years of civil war in Liberia, a peace agreement was signed there in 2003. The UNMIL mission has been in place in the country since that time to assist the government in the consolidation of peace and stability.
Van Roosen said serving as the force chief of staff for the U.N. mission was a highly unique opportunity for him as a member of the U.S. armed forces.
He said the U.N. benefits greatly from U.S. participation since members of the United States armed forces, especially the Army, are highly effective and efficient in carrying out and completing tasks.
"The organizational and operational skills that our Army has, to include our Army Reserve, is so valuable in an environment where you have [the militaries of] 44 different nations ... trying to come together and function as one," Van Roosen said.
While the overall mission included dozens of nations, for his part, Van Roosen said he oversaw 2,000 troops from about eight countries. "I had an awful lot of fun with that. I really did," he said.
UNMIL's military strength totaled 15,000 at its peak; current forces total around 5,800. The U.N. Security Council has mandated UNMIL to decrease its military strength to 3,750 troops by June 2015.
The mission has been highly successful in maintaining stability and peace and transitioning security responsibilities, said Van Roosen. The United States, he said, can be very proud of its participation.
It will be a great moment when a successful transition is complete, knowing that the U.S. military has had a significant role to play in that process," Van Roosen said.
At the Pentagon, Sept. 13, Van Roosen received the Defense Superior Service Medal for his service to the mission.
The award, he said, is a reflection of the work of the U.S. Military Observer Group in Washington, and a testament to the importance of sending service members into U.N. missions to ensure that the work is as effective and efficient as it can be.