ARCHIVED - Canadian Army “Sopranos” – From domestic operations in Northern Canada to deployment on Operation SOPRANO

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Article / August 21, 2014 / Project number: 14-0169-3

We will be publishing a series of three articles about three Canadian Army officers deployed on Operation SOPRANO in South Sudan.

Torit, South Sudan — Major (Maj) Perry Rittershofer of Penetanguishene, Ontario, is not a novice to the conflict in the Sudan. Deputy Commanding Officer of The Grey and Simcoe County Foresters, a Primary Reserve Infantry unit in northern Ontario, he was first deployed to the Republic of Sudan in 2009 for approximately six months as the National Support Element Operations Officer. His current deployment began in April and ends in October, 2014. 

Operation SOPRANO is the Canadian Armed Forces' (CAF) participation in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), the military component of a “whole-of-government” engagement in South Sudan that also includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Maj Rittershofer is currently a military liaison officer at the United Nations State Support Base in Torit, Eastern Equatoria state. His work involves active patrols to different towns and villages in the state. “We meet with the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA), community officials, and the local population, to gather information on the security situation, rebel and military activities within the state. We are a calming influence in times of escalated tension, while showing the UN presence. We report back through our chain of command in the hopes of pre-empting, and negating escalation of violence towards civilians, and putting information in the hands of the right agency that can get some help to the civilians,” explains Maj Rittershofer.

Prior to his deployments to Sudan, Maj Rittershofer, a reserve Infantry officer by trade, had been deployed to domestic operations in northern Canada, including Operation NARWHAL and Operation NANOOK,  “I deployed to Darfur and six months later I was deployed on Arctic Operations training. I went from plus 50 degrees to minus 50 degrees in six months,” jests Maj Rittershofer. Being in the Sudan has been somewhat of a culture shock. The value of life in this new country is vastly diminished and the quality of life is almost non-existent.

Hailing originally from Midland, Ontario, where his parents still reside, husband to Beverley, and father to two sons, William and Andrew, Maj Rittershofer is pleased to report, “Being here in South Sudan has made me grateful for the knowledge that my wife and children are safe at home in Canada.”  

Hopefully here, things will continue to move forward.  “All patrols I have done to date in Torit, Sudan, have been fairly peaceful. One of those patrols was to investigate a clash within a village, where some people were killed and others had their homes burned down.”  

While there continues to be criminal and humanitarian threats, civilians understand the importance of foreign militaries and their presence is appreciated, as are their peace-keeping efforts. “As a nation, Canadians do not know enough about the situation in South Sudan, our news doesn’t really cover this area. We need to continue to raise the plight of the South Sudanese and our presence here gives context and situational awareness to countries and media around the world,” explains Maj Rittershofer.

When asked why it is so important for the Canadian Army to participate in Operation SOPRANO and by extension UNMISS, Maj Rittershofer simple stated, “We need to help the people of this country and one of the ways to do that is to aid the United Nations in the implantation of its mandates, in order to make a stable, secure South Sudan.”  The United Nations Security Council continues to state that the situation in South Sudan constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the region, and by extension, peace in Africa. “It is important for the Canadian Army to help promote peace in the world! The Canadian Army is a strong force among international militaries, we are well-respected, we are well-trained, and we are ready to continue to assist in finding peaceful solutions and a path to move forward. We do this in South Sudan for all her people!” concludes Maj Rittershofer.

The Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest country was born on July 9, 2011 following its separation from the Republic of Sudan and the culmination of a six-year peace process. The Canadian Armed Forces has been active in Sudan since June 2004.

Written by Helen Bobat, Army Public Affairs

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