Friday, June 24, 2011

UN rehires retired Filipino general peacekeeping force commander

By DJ Yap
Phiippine Daily Inquirer, Friday, June 24,2011

A Filipino general who commanded the 1,050-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in the Middle East’s troubled Golan Heights officially retired from the service this month.

But Gen. Natalio Ecarma III has been called back to duty—as a naval reservist this time—on the request of UN officials who have been impressed by his performance, according to the military.

A highly decorated Marine general, Ecarma became the force commander and head of mission for the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the disputed region in March 2010.

The Golan Heights is a 1,800-square kilometer hilly area overlooking the Jordan River valley. The area was part of Syria until the 1967 war, when a large part of it came under Israeli military occupation.

Ecarma officially retired from the military on June 3 and was conferred military honors last Wednesday, said Lt. Cherryl Pontillas Tindog, acting director of the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office.

Navy reservist

“However, he will not be retiring because the UN asked him to stay in his post and so President Aquino called him back to active duty as a naval reservist,” Tindog said.

She said this was the first time for such an arrangement to happen.

Tindog said Ecarma credited his success in the UN mission to his peacekeeping experience in the Mindanao conflict.

“He saw how important it is to have sincerity, humility and compassion when dealing with armed conflicts. When you engage in talks, you have to show that you’re sincere,” she said.

Part of his responsibilities included deploying forces, keeping morale high, giving a sense of direction to the mission, and employing military strategies, Tindog said.

His being called back to duty was a testament to the exemplary duty and leadership that Ecarma displayed and his “innate compassion and dedication,” she said.

“This is something that has inspired the troops and Marines like me. Maybe our people need to know this story to be inspired too,” she said.

Ecarma will be flying back to the Golan Heights on June 27.

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