Growing up in a small town in Iceland, I always dreamed about seeing the world. I left high school with an aptitude for logistics and joined the United States Naval Station Fire Department, Snow Removal and Air Cargo Service at Keflavík International Airport. In 1994, I responded to a local advertisement seeking experienced and fully licensed individuals who could operate and maintain heavy mobile equipment to fill Logistics and Transport posts at the United Nations Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia.
I remember the day I was recruited as if it was yesterday. Initially, I was not sure if I would be comfortable working abroad, let alone in peace operations. As I was debating whether to take up the offer, I heard a song on the radio by one of Iceland’s most famous musicians about a man looking back on his life and regretting that he never took the opportunity to get out there into the world. All hesitation then left me, and I made a decision that was to give me a wonderful and adventurous career with the Organization.
My first role required transporting troops, food and supplies to various military areas of responsibility in remote conflict zones. I loved my challenging job, which entailed swiftly understanding the political context in the Balkans and adapting to the geographic landscape, weather, road conditions, and constantly changing security situation. Our diverse team was effective and well synchronized.
My next role was at the Transport Section of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium. I was responsible for running shuttle services, VIP assignments, driving and testing incoming staff, providing advanced training to locally recruited drivers, and managing fuel requirements and consumption for United Nations-owned vehicles in the mission.
A year later, I joined the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, where the climate and local culture were novelties to me. As I reconnected with colleagues from previous missions - friends I had not expected to meet again - I realized that I had another family: the United Nations family.
I thrive on the dynamic operational challenges that mission start-ups provide. I joined the start-up mission for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in 1999, where my first task was to escort a local fuel truck from Skopje to Pristina in order to fuel the first vehicles and generators being deployed for the mission. UNMIK was up and running within two months - a rapid process made possible through the logistical preparation and support of an experienced advance team.
In 2003, once the Accra peace agreement for Liberia was signed, I was deployed to start up the United Nations Mission in Liberia, where I later returned in 2005.
In addition to my demanding assignments, I also participated in a transportation management programme and was certified in 2005. Throughout my career, I have ensured the continuation of my professional development, which the Organization encourages.
Currently, I am a Transport Asset Manager at the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. My current mission is very stimulating due to the huge area it covers. The operations are mainly in the Sahara desert where sealed roads are rare. Flight time from mission headquarters in Bamako to the Sectors is up to four hours one way, and driving can take up to five days one way.
Working in the field is rewarding, and can constitute an adventurous life. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to give something back to the world. When you are far away from home, you may feel remote at times but with dedication to your family and to the Organization you serve, you can make a positive contribution no matter where you are deployed.