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A New Zealand woman who took charge of soldiers and police to lead refugees to safety through a battle zone has won a top military award.

Lieutenant Colonel Melanie Childs was named the New Zealand Defence Force Person of the Year in a ceremony at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch on Friday.

Childs was working at the UN headquarters in South Sudan’s capital of Juba in July last year, during what are now known as the Juba Clashes.

Fighting broke out between forces supporting the country’s president and its vice president. Hundreds were killed in skirmishes in and around the city, that at times involved tanks, rocket propelled grenades, machine guns and helicopters.

For five days, UN House, the headquarters Childs was serving at, was caught in the crossfire. 182 buildings in the compound were struck, and a neighbouring camp that protected as many as 27,000 displaced people also came under the hail of bullets and explosives.

Those killed included at least 20 people hoping for UN protection, and two Chinese peacekeepers. […]

“Lieutenant Colonel Childs took charge of infantry and police units that were in disarray, and helped shepherd thousands of displaced refugees who had been living in camps around the UN base, to areas that offered them greater protection,” Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, said.

He described her as a “courageous leader”. 

Childs was also noted for “moral courage” in standing up for what is right among her peers. She “showed resolve in challenging inappropriate behaviours within the Defence Force, making it a better and safer place for everyone”, a Defence Force report on the awards said.  […]

 

 – Stuff


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