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RNZCT Driver Training Team – Multinational Force and Observers Sinai, 1983 – 1984

Captain Peter Sheppard, New Zealand Army, (Ret.)

The Multinational Force and Observers Sinai (MFO) has its Headquarters in Rome and is the international peace keeping organisation created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel in 1979.

Image from an anonymous donor collection. Aerial oblique view of a desert road in a valley. Image kindly provided by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, \u003ca href=\"https://fotoweb.airforcemuseum.co.nz/fotoweb/archives/5003-Search-the-Collection/Collection/2014-041.14_1.JPG.info\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eRef: 2014-041.14\u003c/a\u003e.

Image from an anonymous donor collection. Aerial oblique view of a desert road in a valley. Image kindly provided by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Ref: 2014-041.14.

© Air Force Museum of New Zealand Creative Commons BY-NC

The origins of the MFO lie in Annex 1 to the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, in which the Treaty Parties undertook to request the United Nations to provide a force and observers to supervise the implementation of the Treaty. When it did not prove possible to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a UN peace keeping force in the Sinai, the Treaty Parties negotiated a Protocol in 1981 establishing the MFO “as an alternative” to the envisioned UN force.

Thirteen States -- Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand (NZ), Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States (US), and Uruguay -- currently provide the MFO with military personnel that make up the Force and perform specific and specialized tasks.

During 1983, MFO Headquarters in Rome made a request to contributing nations to supply a driver training team to address the large number of vehicle crashes that had occurred in the relatively short time the force had been deployed in the Sinai. Logistical transport tasks involved heavy vehicles travelling long distances over varying terrain throughout the Sinai desert, replenishing the various MFO outposts with supplies, fuel, and water etc. Most of the vehicles used for these tasks were driven by US Army drivers. 

The NZ Army response to the MFO request was accepted and a five-person driver training team of four RNZCT Senior NCOs (Driving Instructors) was identified under the command of WO1 Peter Sheppard. The other team members being SSgt Derek Nees, Sgt Grant Child and WOII Roy Seaman. The fifth SNCO was RNZEME SSgt Dennis Madden who was to overview mechanical related training issues. 

Group portrait of RNZCT Driver Training Team part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image includes WO1 Peter Sheppard, SSgt Derek Nees, Sgt Grant Child, WOII Roy Seaman and SSgt Dennis Madden. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

Group portrait of RNZCT Driver Training Team part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image includes WO1 Peter Sheppard, SSgt Derek Nees, Sgt Grant Child, WOII Roy Seaman and SSgt Dennis Madden. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

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Selection of the RNZCT team members was largely influenced by the previous instructional experience team members had acquired with American Forces vehicles. WO1 Sheppard had recently spent five months on secondment with the US 25th Supply and Transport Battalion based in Hawaii, WO11 Seaman, SSGT Nees and SGT Child had previous Antarctica experience with US troops and vehicles. Additionally, SGT Child was an experienced School of Transport instructor particularly with delivering the USA developed Defensive Driving Course.

Because of the nature of this activity, the team was required to travel using official NZ Government passports. The team departed NZ late December 1983 by civilian airlines enroute to Israel. The route taken to Tel Aviv was through Singapore and Athens. During that time, a high level of security was required for travellers entering Israel due to ongoing conflicts. At Athens airport the team was individually taken away by Israel authorities for questioning as to why the team was travelling to Israel. Another example of the high security at the time, was on the flight from Athens to Tel Aviv, armed security guards constantly walked up and down the aircraft aisle observing passengers. On arrival at Tel Aviv airport Israel, the team was further subjected to individual questioning by Israel authorities regarding the purpose of the visit.   

The team was based at the El Gorah North Camp located close to the Israel border.

Once the team had settled into their new surroundings and completed various situation briefings, preparation of the training programme commenced. A training needs analysis was undertaken which also included vehicle familiarisation, terrain reconnaissance and identifying driving styles of other contributing nations. A training programme was developed for the new intake of approximately 70 American drivers which also included the development of a new Driving Permit for authorised drivers of MFO vehicles. The MFO vehicle fleet was large and varied from heavy combination units to jeeps. Combination units included fuel and water tankers and heavy vehicles included coaches, heavy rigid, and smaller pickups. 

MFO Vehicles part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

MFO Vehicles part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

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The driver training programme developed by the team included the routine syllabus of interventions applicable for the safe use of vehicle types used by the Force and included training of selected American soldiers to provide ongoing driver tuition once the team returned to NZ. Of note, the training programme included the latest edition of the USA Defensive Driving Course which at the time, had not been released in the USA. NZ Government had received an advanced copy of the new course and a copy was provided to Army. In addition, the training included a range of driver behaviour factors such as decision making and fatigue. An example of driver fatigue occurred two days prior to the arrival of the NZ Team, where a MFO vehicle was ambushed in retaliation of a previous incident a few days prior, when a tired MFO driver failed to act and reduce speed and crashed into a herd of goats belonging to the local Bedouin tribe. For the next few weeks, this incident required vehicle movement from the base to take extensive re-routing and any vehicles travelling near the ambush site were required to have overhead cover by MFO Gunships. 

In addition to the training, a driving permit system was developed to ensure all MFO drivers (from the various contributing nations) achieved a standardised level of safe and competent driving for the local conditions. 

Training of the MFO drivers went well and once the American drivers became used to the NZ accent, all training objectives were met. Some minor difficulties with language were experienced with a few drivers of other non-English speaking nations such as Columbia and European nations. These instances were relatively minor.

USA Drivers part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

USA Drivers part of the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai, 1983-1984. Image kindly provided by Peter Sheppard (November 2022).

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Life at El Gorah Base Camp was focused on the training schedule, however, various driver training tasks allowed the team to view some of the local Egyptian coastal areas and a few trips were made into the Sinai desert as part of the driver training. On base, the team quickly became friendly with the Fijian Battalion and many a morning tea was spent at the Fijian mess where scones and a cup of tea were a reminder of home. Maintaining fitness was a priority and time was spent jogging around the inside of the base perimeter. Early in the tour when enquiries were made with the British Contingent as to where it was permissible to exercise, the British suggested one of the team to accompany them on their regular run around the perimeter. They mentioned that the distance was quite long and that they ran at a quick pace, so hopefully the Kiwi would be able to stay with them. Dennis Madden was tasked to identify the route with the British runners. Within a short space of time, Dennis returned and was asked how the run went and did he manage to stay with the British runners, to which he replied, “They are still coming”.  Unknown to the British, Denis was a NZ provincial representative athlete. 

After a few weeks into the training cycle the team were able to take some recreation and leave which enabled the team to have a quick visit historical sites at both Cairo and Jerusalem as well as other areas of the Sinai Peninsula.

On completion of the training the team returned to NZ. Following their return, exemplary reports of the team’s performance were received from the MFO Director General in Rome and the Chief Logistics Officer at MFO Sinai. 

After the team returned to NZ in 1984, the following year, NZ Army was requested to provide a driver training team and drivers to the MFO in the Sinai which remains to the time of this report (September 2021). 

 

On behalf of the team members:


Photographer unknown. Portrait of Peter Sheppard in military uniform. Image kindly provided by service person (November 2022).

Photographer unknown. Portrait of Peter Sheppard in military uniform. Image kindly provided by service person (November 2022).

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Captain Peter Sheppard (Ret) BEM FCIT, kindly provided the following article in response to a call for submissions printed in the Spring 2022 Edition of the Veterans' Affairs. If you have completed Operational Service and would also like to submit a story or be interviewed by an Online Cenotaph team member please get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cite this article

Captain Peter Sheppard (Ret.). RNZCT Driver Training Team – Multinational Force and Observers Sinai, 1983 – 1984. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 1 December 2022. Updated: 2 December 2022.
URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/features/Peter-Sheppard