Alumni

Portrait

Photographs courtesy the African Union/United Nations/Information Support Team

Few people understand more about what goes into an international peacekeeping operation than Hugh Price, R’76. On a good day, it’s coordinating multicountry operations — getting tents, food, transportation, and people all working together — and navigating a million logistical details across different cultures and stakeholder countries.

That level of chaos might seem like a diplomatic nightmare. For Price, it has become a calling. The Luray, Virginia, native has worked with the United Nations since retiring from the U.S. Army in 1997. His first role was in the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, but his passion for the work started in 1994 during a deployment to Mozambique supporting peacekeeping operations as the country held its first elections after a civil war. Price was also involved in logistics support for South Africa when the country elected Nelson Mandela president after apartheid’s fall.

“It was a fascinating time to be in Africa,” Price said. “That experience led to my decision to take the job with the U.N. when my retirement from the Army became possible.”

Price’s first U.N. job was initially a six-month contract. “I wasn’t sure what would happen,” he said, “but one thing led to another, and 20 years went by in a flash.”

When you consider all of the factors that impact the U.N., I'm amazed sometimes that it actually works as well as it does.

His assignments have included Angola, two tours in East Timor, Côte d’Ivoire, and six years in Liberia, where he was director of mission support during the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Price retired from the U.N. (the first time) in late 2015.

Retirement was short-lived. By February, then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked him to be acting assistant secretary-general of the U.N.’s Department of Field Support. The department provides logistics and administrative services to 16 active peacekeeping missions and 13 special political missions the U.N. currently runs worldwide.

“When you look at different cultures, different backgrounds, and political interests of all the member states, when you consider all of the factors that impact the U.N., I’m amazed sometimes that it actually works as well as it does,” he said.

Price’s three months supporting the under-secretary-general at the U.N.’s Department of Field Support resulted in another short period of attempted retirement. After leaving U.N. Headquarters in New York, a mere two months passed before he was asked back out of retirement in October 2016 to take on a new mission as head of the U.N. Support Office in Somalia.

It’s a fairly broad mandate, but his work involves coordinating logistics for African Union forces in their fight against the al-Shabaab threat. Price’s team also provides direct support to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia and limited support to U.N. agencies such as the World Food Programme and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that operate in Somalia.

“You’re never bored,” he said. “You’re dealing with all kinds of things in that respect. You’re in the field and can see in real time the impact of what is happening, lives that are being saved. I hadn’t really planned this kind of career. It’s just kind of happened, but it’s hard to turn away from it as long as I still have opportunities to try to make the world a better place, to give back.”

Retiring continues to be the most difficult logistical challenge for Price. He’s been trying to do so since he left the Army. At some point, Price said, he hopes to resume his pursuit of retirement in Virginia.