Fijians leave Lebanon, but stay busy
The Fiji Infantry Regiment dates back to at least the 1920s when the (then colony) fell under the influence of New Zealand and it was established as a local defense force– akin to territorials. By WWII, the unit was seeing service in a real shooting war, with Fijians making a name for themselves throughout the Pacific.
Fast forward to 1978 and, once the island nation became a self-governing and independent republic inside the British Commonwealth (with a short break after a military coup), the FIRgt became the cornerstone of the 3,500-man Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
Unique in its structure, the three (active) battalion regiment typically has two of its battalions permanently deployed with the UN while the third remains at home for actual defense (a rarity) and training. The Fiji Regiment also has three reserve battalions should things get crazy.
Now, it seems they have a free company.
The UN recently bade farewell to 134 Fijian peacekeepers with the UNIFIL force in Lebanon. The country deployed to Beirut initially in 1978– the Republic’s first overseas mission– and has remained there off and on since then.
The job has been dangerous and no less than 35 Fijians lost their lives on the mission over the past 40 years.
“We shall keep in mind our fallen comrades in arms, who represent an example of unwavering commitment to UNIFIL and to this country,” said UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col of Italy.
Don’t worry though, the Fijians still have forces deployed on UN missions in Syria (a battalion-sized unit), Iraq, Sudan, Jerusalem, and the Siani (another battalion)— meaning about a quarter of their entire force (and two-thirds of their infantry) is currently wearing the blue beret.