Monday 25 March 2019

Mission ready: Irish troops prepare for the Golan

Explosive start: The 59th Infantry Group prepare for their upcoming deployment to Syria at the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Explosive start: The 59th Infantry Group prepare for their upcoming deployment to Syria at the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

A windswept Glen of Imaal stood in for the Golan Heights as 130 members of the Defence Forces were put through their paces on a training exercise ahead of their deployment to the war-torn region later this month.

The 59th Infantry Group will be serving as part of a UN mission and will be responsible for maintaining a quick reaction force that can respond to any requests within 15 minutes.

This could involve the emergency evacuation of other UN personnel.

For medical officer Iseult Coolahan this will be her second overseas posting, having already served in the Lebanon in 2016.

A hospital doctor with the HSE for 10 years, she decided to join the Defence Forces five years ago and hasn't looked back.

"I was looking for different challenges and I also liked that I'd be able to travel overseas," said the Dublin woman, explaining her reasons for changing career.

Meanwhile, the youngest member of the group, 21-year-old Airman Sean McHugh, from Ballina, Co Mayo, is relishing the prospect of his first foreign posting.

"I'm excited now to be going over. We've been well briefed so it should be good."

The tour of duty is six months, and he admitted that he will miss seeing his family and friends.

"We get a three-week break in the middle though," he added.

He is one of 39 troops who will be experiencing their first tour of duty abroad.

However, they are part of a highly experienced group who have notched up no fewer than 230 tours of duty to places such as Liberia, Somalia, Chad, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Corporal Chloe Foy, from Portlaoise, has previously served in the Lebanon.

"It's my second overseas trip. My first was to Lebanon in 2014/2015 but it's my first time overseas as a section commander so it's more responsibility.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what's going on out there and what we're going to be tasked with.

"Being away from home is the hardest thing but you get used to it. The friends you make, the people you're sharing a room with and all, they become like your little family out there.

"I'm going to miss my family and miss my football... I'm missing a whole season, I'm a bit disappointed about that," she laughed.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News