In the near future up to 100,000 soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces will have served in international operations since 1960 in order to secure the peace in conflicts in various regions around the world.
The first deployment of Austrian soldiers was in 1960 in support of the UN Mission in Congo. This contingent was primarily a field hospital and it experienced all the challenges of the troops deployed on a different continent very far away from the homeland support base. Since those days, the Austrian Armed Forces have participated in various UN operations with specialists, observers and contingents. Various high-ranking positions and force commanders in UN operations, for which Austria was selected, indicate the serious attempts by Austria throughout the past 50 years.
"Call the Austrians” leads in various peace keeping and humanitarian operations nowadays to immediate response. In many cases, the soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces have rescued lives and have supported the wellbeing of the local population.
By the end of 2009 the nearly two-years-lasting mission in Chad was successfully accomplished and the remaining forces were redeployed. In 2009, the EUFOR Operation Althea turned to high visibility due to the number of withdrawals of troops. In 2010, the Austrian Armed Forces reinforced their contingent in the Althea operation including the MEDEVAC helicopters and have, therefore, been invited for providing the commander of this operation. Since summer 2010, the contingent of the Austrian Armed Forces has been reinforced again including the takeover of the framework nation from the multinational battalion located in Sarajevo. The commander for this operation was prolonged for an additional year.
In mid-August 2010 approximately 1,140 soldiers served in 12 international operations.
To characterise the required high flexibility for quick response to disaster relief the challenge of the floods in Pakistan in August of this year show clearly the complexity for humanitarian help. At an early stage, the Austrian Armed Forces provided required goods out of their own inventory and sent one UNDAC member according to the UNDAC routines.
For a small country also the resources for the armed forces are limited. A couple of serious assessments by decision makers, politicians as well as specialists from relief organisations, clearly state that the quality of training of our soldiers and their individual engagement are high. High responsiveness to international requirements in conjunction with large numbers of troops on average deployed in foreign operations show the effort on the part of the Austrian Armed Forces in the international theatre. Despite the total of about eight million people and the upcoming budgetary restraints the value of the contribution of the Austrian Armed Forces to international crisis management and humanitarian operations is still growing.
Throughout the years the Austrian Armed Forces have developed continuously with a view to the upcoming challenges, especially in armed conflicts, and the broader spectrum of stabilising in pre as well as post-conflict crisis management, including humanitarian aid.
In autumn this year the Austrian Armed Forces celebrate their 50th anniversary of participation in international operations. The soldiers, who conducted all those operations successfully, have earned themselves recognition and commendation. They will serve as examples for the future contributions of the Austrian Armed Forces!
Lieutenant General Christian Ségur-Cabanac, born in 1948. Head of Directorate-General IV "Operations" in the MoD.