independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Tour of duty is a family affair as 181 fly out to Lebanon

Comdt Caroline Burke with her husband Kieran Costello and their 22-month-old daughter Vanessa

SHE is just 27 and bound for the Lebanon, but the youngest female soldier on the forthcoming tour of duty said she has no problem "mixing it with the lads".

Lt Deirdre Carbery, from Kells in Meath, will revel in the challenge of commanding 30 male troops as part of Ireland's contribution to the UN Middle East peacekeeping force. She is one of a 181-strong contingent flying out to Lebanon later this month for a six-month tour of duty. They will be based in the south of the country nudging the Israeli and Syrian borders at UN post 2-45.

The Irish have been on Lebanese UN duty since 1978, but not without tragedy. There have been 47 soldiers killed out of the 30,000 troops who have visited there.

But Lt Carbery said she was unfazed by the task ahead, and would rely on her training should she and her soldiers come under attack. "I'm platoon commander going out so I'm in charge of 32 troops. Among this group there are only two females," she said.

"Women go through the exact same training as our male counterparts. Once you're competent and confident and able to do your job, I think it doesn't matter if you're male or female.

"I grew up with two brothers and played sports with lads so I never really thought about any real differences between the sexes. But the Defence Forces don't treat women any different."

The 42nd Infantry Group will leave at the end of the month, with half of the troops from Cathal Brugha barracks in Dublin, and the rest mainly from Dundalk.

A father and son are also among the latest Irish troops – Company Sergeant Paul O'Mara (47), and Private David O'Mara (24), also from Kells – but they will be in separate units.

Paul has vowed not to pull rank on his son. "He's got his own boss over there," he said. "And I have my guys to look after. We will meet each other occasionally and have a drink."

Veteran Paul is on his 11th overseas mission with the Defence Forces – and his sixth trip to Lebanon – while son David is one of 60 troops in the group who are on their first operation abroad.

Following the latest incident involving Irish troops in Syria, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the Government was doing all it could to ensure the safety of our soldiers overseas.

Irish Independent

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