Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Gagandeep Singh. I am 29 years old Indian. I like reading novels and history books. I listen to instrumental music and enjoy writing journals.
How long have you been a peacekeeper and what are your responsibilities?
I came to MONUSCO (the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) on 24 May 2019 and was deployed in the North Kivu province. My responsibilities include help maintaining peace and security in the province; it also consists of protecting civilians from any armed threat, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, and electoral assistance to local authorities.
Why did you choose a career in the military and how did you become peacekeeper?
I was born and brought up in in a military family. My father had served in the Indian Army and we lived near an army base. I saw the working culture, camaraderie, sacrifices and respect that army officers get in Indian society. The immense satisfaction this job gives is not comparable to any other job in the world. I became a peacekeeper to gain new experiences through working in an international environment and to enhance my professional knowledge.
Describe what a typical day is for you?
Every day is different from the previous one, because we are serving in a very volatile area, that is Eastern DRC. As an officer, my day starts around 5 a.m. when I take morning reports from all the posts. That is followed by morning security drills, including area sanitization around the operating base. From 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., I brief my platoon commander about the day’s schedule. At around 10 a.m., I brief my Quick reaction force (QRF) about the operations of the day and conduct daily tactical training for one hour as UN peacekeeping requires very high standard of operational capability, discipline and quick decision making. I carry out the day’s patrol in line with the patrol plan. Sometimes I conduct joint patrols with the Congolese army and the police to boost the morale of the civilians. In the evening, at around 5 p.m., I do some exercises to keep myself physically and mentally fit. During the day, I make sure to speak with the village chiefs of all the sensitive areas to keep myself updated.
What are the highlights of your service so far and what are the three things you like most about the country you are based?
I like the spirit of the people of DRC. Despite all their problems, the people enjoy their life and they help each other. It is this undying spirit that has kept that country through turbulent years. I also like Congolese music. It is often said, “If you want to read the soul of any culture, listen to its music." Congolese music is as lively as its people. It is energetic and shows the strong faith the Congolese people have in a peaceful future. Finally, the climate in eastern DRC is very pleasant, and its landscapes are refreshing and beautiful.
What part of your job do you find challenging and why?
There are two aspects of my job that are more challenging than anything else. First, to adapt to a multicultural and multinational work environment. Second, to meet the aspirations of the local population. MONUSCO in DRC is not only a stabilizing force but in all these years it has become a symbol of hope and relief for the locals. The people look at us with great hope. To fulfill their aspirations and to enhance the image of MONUSCO, I have to work with full zeal and be always ready to react to any situation.
What do your family and friends think about you leaving the country and working as a peacekeeper?
My family members and my friends are very proud of me as they are aware of the situation in DRC and they know that I am working for a bigger cause. As a military officer, my motto is "Duty before self." My family understands this.
What do you do when you have spare time?
I read books or listen to good instrumental music to provide relief for my mind and to freshen my soul. I also maintain a daily journal in which I write my everyday experiences and thoughts. I have named my journal "Congo Diary".
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I see myself working with my Battalion in my country India, with the same zeal and enthusiasm as I demonstrate currently, and with improved professional knowledge and skills.