Ambassador of the Armenian forces
UN AND ARMENIA - 25 YEARS

Ambassador of the Armenian forces

Son of military officer, Igor Sargsyan had always dreamed of becoming a soldier. First he entered the Military Institute after Vazgen Sargsyan and then went to Italy – to continue his studies at the Italian Military Academy. After graduation, Igor was sent to Lebanon as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.

Interview : Armen Mouradian /   Photo : Igor Sargsyan’s personal archive

 

What was your purpose in Lebanon?

I served in Lebanon as part of the Armenian troop under the direction of the Italian military brigade. As I used to say, we are not only peacekeepers but also ambassadors of Armenia, who represent the Armenian forces in the international area. As we all know, the situation in the Middle East has been quite intense for the past few decades, and the main purpose of our troop in Lebanon was to protect the UN base located in the country.

Are there any specific qualities an Armenian soldier should have in order to be chosen for international service?

We are soldiers and we only fulfill our duty. There’s an order which we have to follow. However, I’m sure that possessing particular personal qualities influence decision making. For example, you have to speak foreign languages, especially those who are being sent to such regions as commanders. Speaking specifically about me, I graduated from the Military Academy in Italy, and as I speak both Italian and English, and as long as we were under the direction of the Italian brigade, I was appointed as the contingent cooperation officer. In a few words, I was responsible for the coordination of different issues between Armenian and Italian troops.


What is the difference between an Armenian soldier and representing an international military structure?

When you serve your country, you are defending the interests of your nation and its security. Here, you are who you are. However, being part of a UN mission is not only about representing yourself as a soldier but the whole country. So the feeling of responsibility is twice as high. For example, we not only wear the UN flag on our uniform but also the Armenian flag on the other shoulder. And whatever you do, you will be considered not only as an international peacekeeper, but also as a representative of the Republic of Armenia.

What new things did you learn from your service?

First of all, I learned that Armenians are highly respected in Lebanon by the locals. It’s because of the Armenian community, which is quite large in the country. Armenians are part of social life, and they are being treated very well.
Also, we had good relations with other soldiers. Many of them had been in touch with other Armenian peacekeepers in Afghanistan or Kosovo, and they already knew how responsible and friendly we can be.

What did the UN mission give you personally?

New knowledge and the understanding of a new culture. It’s very different when you watch life in Middle Eastern countries on TV and then physically go there by yourself. You understand their culture, their way of thinking, you make new friends and connections, and you learn new things from other nations, which you can then apply to your life and your country. Locals, as I said before, were very friendly to us, not only because we were Armenians, but also because we were soldiers. Every country, which went through a significant war, values soldiers who protect them. They know the price of peace. Also, right after we arrived in Lebanon, the UN held special courses on how to behave in Muslim countries and Lebanon in particular. For example: What cultural, political or social differences locals have, how we should act in this or that situation. That’s why we served with no incidents and returned to our homes safe and sound.

 

Armenian peacekeepers
Armenian peacekeepers have participated in international missions since 2004, numbering more than 3000 soldiers in total. Usually Armenian troops consist of soldiers from the Ministry of Defense peacekeeping brigade and supporting forces with engineering and military medical assistance.
Armenia’s first peacekeeping experience was in Kosovo. In 2004 one platoon became part of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) Greek battalion. Armenian peacekeepers left Kosovo in 2011 with the Greek battalion. Since 2012, Armenian peacekeepers returned to KFOR: one platoon (35 units) stationed at USAREUR – United States Army Europe military base. The platoon’s mission includes providing security at the base, patrolling and also serves as a rapid reaction unit during a state of emergency.
Armenian peacekeepers were located in Afghanistan as part of NATO ISAF and Resolute Support missions, numbering 40 peacekeepers in 2010 and 81 peacekeepers in 2011. Now there are 56 Armenian peacekeepers at the Camp Casaba base in Kabul and 65 in Mazar e Sharif.
Between 2005 and 2008, 368 Armenian peacekeepers completed 8 tours as part of the Operation Iraqi Freedom mission, providing transportation responsibilities, demining and medical support.
Armenia joined the UNIFIL Lebanon mission in 2011. Since 2014, there has been one Armenian peacekeeping platoon (32 units) and one military observer Arthur Avagyan. The platoon’s mission is to provide security at the military base located in the city of Shama.