'I couldn't cope with sitting in an office all day... now I get paid to run around all over the place'
Recent army recruits Private Kellie Sheehan and Private Eoin Walsh spoke to Sasha Brady about life in the Defence Forces as it was voted one of the top 25 places to work in Ireland
A recent survey identified the Defence Forces as one of the best places to work in Ireland. The study, compiled by online recruitment company Indeed, based its results on thousands of employees' ratings on the site. We spoke to two recent recruits, who are based at the Curragh Camp in Kildare, to find out what life is like in the army and if it really is all swearing, shouting and early starts.
Private Kellie Sheehan (24), Carlow: 'My family were shocked when I broke the news to them. I don't come from a military background'
I was in my final year at university, doing a BA in language and translation studies at DCU. I was taking a break from my dissertation one day and saw an a recruitment ad for the Defence Forces. Joining the army had always been at the back of my mind but it wasn't something that I had properly considered. I'd always been active and I liked the idea of a career where you could be physically and mentally active. When I decided to apply I was at a crossroads in my life, I wasn't ready to do my masters just yet so I thought 'why not?' and I took the chance.
My family were shocked when I broke the news to them. I don't come from a military background. At the time of applying, I didn't know anyone who had been in the army but I knew this was something that I wanted to do. I'm an outgoing person and I enjoy physical activities. I'd been doing karate since I was eight-years-old and I love the discipline of it, the structure and the format. I'd also lived abroad for a while, in Spain, and I was keen to get into a job that could take me overseas.
I finished my degree last summer and started my recruit training in October. It's a 15-week training course that teaches you all the basic military skills. It was a shock to the system at first. It really was tough. The first time I ever held a weapon, I thought 'What the hell is going on?' but you get used to it. There is a lot of shouting, of course, but there's a reason for that and it doesn't bother me at all. You need to know how to cope in an aggressive or hostile situation.
Sometimes I don't get a lot of sleep, especially if I'm on the night patrol. That can be disorientating at first but then you learn to adapt. All these activities are designed to train you to function in tough environments.
Every day we wake up between 6am and 6.30am, we get breakfast and then kick into training. Each day is different. Once we went up to the Glen of Imaal in Wicklow and we were in the trenches, role playing in different scenarios. That was exhausting but great fun. Even though it's challenging, I enjoy every second of it.
It can be hard to explain to friends and family what I actually do. Every time I go back to Carlow my mam and dad always ask what I've been getting up to. It's hard for anyone on the outside to really understand. I explain that I'm developing great skills and they seem happy enough with that.
One of the best parts of the job, for me especially, is the sense of community. It's all about teamwork here. Management are so supportive of outside commitments too. A lot of the recruits are involved in the GAA. There's never any hassle getting time off for training or games. They actually encourage it.
There are a few girls here, I think there's about 6pc female recruits at the moment - which isn't a lot but it's improving all the time. There are five girls in my platoon and we all get along. You'd think it would be tough considering we live and work together but it's not. I definitely feel supported.
I finished my recruit training and have progressed to the second stage, which is called Three Star training. I'm in week eight of the 10-week programme. This programme is all about honing and fine-tuning your skills. I don't know what I'll do immediately after. I'll probably just take a week off to get my head together before making any major decisions.
There are lots of opportunities for career progression here, for example you can go on and do an engineering course, you can specialise in weapons, undertake a paramedics course, train to become a chef in the military. A lot of the courses here can be used in the outside world. I might do a course on the side, get as many qualifications as I can out of it. I'd also like to see how I can use my degree within the Defence Forces.
I'm glad I made the decision to apply. I couldn't cope with sitting in an office all day. I can never sit still for a minute. Now I get paid to run around all over the place.
Private Eoin Walsh (26), Kildare: 'It isn't the type of career where you can go out on the session a few nights a week, your performance would definitely suffer.'
I was doing a strength and conditioning course in Newbridge College before joining the army. My dad had been in the army and always had good things to say about it. He was delighted when he found out I was joining.
I really like the idea of serving my country, that's what really drew me to the Defence Forces. It's been a goal of mine since I was a child.
I just finished my 15-week recruit training and now I'm on to the second stage, Three Star training.
It's been a great experience but it's been challenging, some days are really tough.
I get up at around 6am, shave, wash and head down for breakfast. The food isn't bad, it's better than I thought it would be. We pay for rations and a lot of the meals are subsidised so the cost of food is pretty reasonable.
After breakfast we get stuck into training. Some days we're out on the field and other days we're in the classroom. I like the variety. I do enjoy being out in the field though, I've a rugby background so I enjoy keeping fit.
We're a close-knit group. After the first block of training we finished with 32 recruits, then we had 11 recruits from the Air Corps join, so there are 42 in all. We live and work in such a close environment that we have to get along. The work is so challenging that it brings people together.
We get out most weekends and can enjoy a social life. It isn't the type of career where you can go out on the session a few nights a week, your performance would definitely suffer. I play rugby for Newbridge College and they've always allowed me time off for training and matches, which is handy.
My dad left the Defence Forces after 25 years but he stays involved, he's still pretty active in the community. I can see myself making a proper career out of it too. There's great job security, it's challenging, you get to travel, you get to keep fit and you're treated well. I can see why it's considered such a good place to work.