'It's great to have him home' – tears of joy flow as Irish troops return from Syria
TEARS of joy flowed as peacekeeping troops stepped off a flight from Beirut after their successful mission on the Golan Heights in Syria.
Proud father and 23-year-old private Derek Lamb, from Crumlin, Dublin, confessed that he became very emotional when he caught sight of his four-day-old daughter Callie in the arms of his partner Stacey Balfe.
"I am overwhelmed and I didn't think I would be that emotional," he said.
"This is our first child and hopefully there will be many more to come."
Stacey added: "It's great to have him home. It's a bit like Christmas."
It was Derek's first mission overseas but he is part of a family with a strong military tradition and his grandfather, Sgt Major Derek Lamb, was also in the welcoming party. He has taken part in 20 overseas tours and says Callie is the 12th grandchild in the family.
Another delighted father, Sgt Clive Dunne, snuggled his daughters Zara (4) and Laila (2) in his arms as he outlined how Syria had been the toughest of his five missions abroad.
But he said that once they had settled into a routine, they were able to cope with all of the challenges.
The professionalism of the peacekeeping troops averted major incidents during their six-month tour of duty on the Golan Heights, according to their commanding officer.
The 115-strong contingent came under fire five times and returned fire twice.
It was the first time since Chad in 2008 that the peacekeepers had been involved in an exchange of gunfire on a mission.
As the bulk of the contingent arrived home at Baldonnel aerodrome in Dublin yesterday, their commanding officer, Lieut Col Brendan Delaney, said the troops knew that, as a quick reaction force, they had to be ready for whatever happened in a volatile mission area.
He acknowledged that there had been some incidents and he was proud of the way that his contingent had handled themselves.
The Naas man, who was on his sixth mission overseas but his first in command, pointed out that their deployment took place against the background of a civil war and every time that an Irish patrol stepped outside their barracks they were in the middle of a hostile environment.
The contingent was drawn from the Dublin-based 2nd brigade, whose commanding officer, Brigadier General Michael Beary, said he was satisfied that the training and equipment provided to the group before they departed meant they were ready and prepared to confront any problem in an unstable environment.
Gen Beary said they would now carry out a "lessons learnt" review and apply the results of that exercise to future deployments.