Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag

Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien recalled many times she and her engineering soldiers encountered danger in South Sudan. When introducing themselves as Vietnamese and showing the national flag, the indigenous people no longer caused any difficulties.
January 05, 2024 | 12:11

Feminine, gentle but equally thorny and tough - these are some words that can be used to describe Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien, a female soldier of the 1st Engineering Team, Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping. She completed the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, Africa.

Engineering soldiers to take care of any difficult challenges

Temporarily putting aside the role of a wife and a mother, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien and hundreds of Vietnamese blue beret soldiers participated in peacekeeping missions for the development of humanity in South Sudan. They have left good impressions on the image of Uncle Ho's soldiers in the minds of international friends for nearly a decade.

Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien is the second woman and one of seven officers assigned by the State President to maintain peace missions by the UN in 2019 in Central Africa. After that, she continued to leave for her second mission in South Sudan in 2022. Many people call her the Vietnamese steel rose.

When asked about the reason for going on duty for the second time, Lien shared: "I was called by comrade Director Hoang Kim Phung (at that time) to the Departmen of Peacekeeping Operation and assigned the task. I think, when the Fatherland called my name, put its trust in me and wanted me to do that task, I could not hesitate and immediately decided to take the task as a community mobilization officer".

Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag
Lieutenant Colonel Lien (middle) with blue beret soldiers.

Also, according to Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien, she and her teammates have been fully trained in survival skills, and specialized and special first aid techniques. For engineering forces, there are two types of safety training, in using equipment and in performing tasks while working in the field.

Lien and her teammates had weekly safety training sessions on machine operation, traffic safety, etc. Some situations go beyond the lessons, like when indigenous people start conflicts, ethnic conflicts, etc.

"To ensure safety when soldiers go to work in the field with indigenous people and rioters, soldiers often conduct campaigns, visit people, soften the battlefield, and have a connection with the people or with the village elders. We engrave the image of Vietnamese soldiers, emphasizing to the local people: "This is the Vietnamese army, they are the Vietnamese engineer soldiers who will help the local people in this or that area." There are also many other dangers such as falling bombs and bullets during riots.

Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag
Lieutenant Colonel Lien in South Sudan.

Uncle Ho's soldiers were loved by local people

During the long journey on duty in a land full of political instability, the image of brave Uncle Ho's soldiers left a great impression on the local people. Vietnamese engineering soldiers are not afraid of challenges or suffering. They taught indigenous people how to grow vegetables and do agricultural work. They supported local people in building roads and schools. Blue beret soldiers like Lien have become teachers for children in difficult areas in South Sudan.

The first and the most difficult obstacle for Lien and her teammates to overcome is the difference in people's lifestyles and customs. She said: "Teaching can only take place in the evening, but unfortunately at night there is no electricity here. People have almost no need to sew, most of them just put on the cloth. There's no need to cut the hair because everyone's hair is short and curly”.

She fell into a situation where all the plans she prepared to apply locally did not achieve the desired results. While Lien was tearing down the old spinach trellis and seeing people gathering to glean each small leaf, the idea of ​​a campaign to teach people to grow green vegetables arose in her mind.

Like a spark caught in the wind, after just one month, households in the area had green vegetable gardens akin to the gardens found in homeland households. Lien determined that the product to escape hunger must be cereals. The name "Lien Agri Cove - Green Bean Lien" was called by local people after a series of vegetable and bean gardens sprouted green on African soil.

Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag
Lien taught local people how to grow green vegetables.

There is a huge difference in socio-cultural contexts between Vietnam and South Sudan. To blur those differences, in addition to helping local people reduce poverty, access literacy, and grow vegetables, soldiers of the Vietnamese Army Corps of Engineers also regularly organize cultural exchanges. They celebrate traditional festivals of Vietnam and Africa together to feel and understand each other's culture. Lien believes: "Cultures may be different but the mind is very similar. If the mind is connected, the culture is also very easy to approach”.

With emotional attachment, the appearance of Lien and her teammates on every road and in every remote countryside has long been a source of great encouragement for the children and people of South Sudan. Despite the difference in language, “Viet Nam” has always been called by local people with affection and love.

Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag
Lien participated in making spring rolls to promote Vietnamese cuisine in Africa.

The Vietnamese national flag is a magic

But not all missions are completed in such an easy way. There were times when Lien and her teammates had to face dangers in foreign lands.

“When passing through the border station of South Sudan and Sudan, we had to spend a lot of time explaining to clear the road. We went with soldiers from other countries, but most of the time, Vietnamese soldiers took charge of talking to the local. The word "Viet Nam" on our clothes is a talisman and a badge to pass every checkpoint”.

The goal set by the Party, State and Vietnamese army is to "pave the way to victory". To ensure this mission, each individual soldier plays a huge role.

More than anyone else, as a community mobilization officer, from the beginning of the trip, Lien set her own goals and plans to bring the best results for the benefits of indigenous people and as well as to promote the image of the Vietnamese soldiers and the country of Vietnam in the international arena.

One of the memorable projects for Lien as well as for the Vietnamese soldiers is renovating classrooms, building libraries for schools, and teaching English and information technology to local children.

Vietnamese Peacekeeper Treasures the National Flag
Lien taught in an English class to African people.

Through her mission in South Sudan, Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thi Lien expressed her deep feelings about the importance of maintaining peace and serving the community in difficult localities.

“For me, participating in peacekeeping and the UN is also protecting the homeland early and from afar. Because when we went there, we proved the mettle and bravery of the Vietnamese soldiers and Uncle Ho's soldiers in the international environment, proving the wholehearted nature of the Vietnamese soldiers for the indigenous people”.

Vietnam participates in peacekeeping operations in South Sudan on the basis of the Party and State's foreign policies and guidelines, protecting peace, not participating in military conflicts but only focusing on humanitarian and reconciliation tasks. It was on that dangerous warland that Vietnamese blue beret soldiers contributed to alleviating the consequences of war for the country and its people.

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