Sunday 25 February 2018

Defence Forces are being starved of resources after being loyal to this State

A Navy vessel helps search for the downed R116 crew off Blackrock Lighthouse. Photo: Collins Dublin
A Navy vessel helps search for the downed R116 crew off Blackrock Lighthouse. Photo: Collins Dublin

Ger Aherne

Following the tragic loss of the crew of R116 in Mayo last Tuesday morning, a torch was shone on the Defence Forces' response. The Air Corps' initial inability to deploy a Casa fixed-wing aircraft came under scrutiny. This was understandable, and indeed necessary.

However, no good was served by the subsequent predictable and indeed unworthy media responses by the Department of Defence. These statements focused solely on attempting to distance themselves from the calamitous HR strategy that currently exists within the Defence Forces. Continuous recruitment is essential, but retention of hard-earned specialists and specialist skills is even more important.

Government and Department of Defence officials focused on convincing the public that the 28 Air Corps cadets in training, with eight due to graduate in Q4 of 2017, were an adequate response to Air Corps' pilot shortages. It suggested they had the problem under control. The truth is none of these eight trainees will be qualified to even act as co-pilots of a helicopter or fixed-wing Casa in an Air Corps operational wing until the summer of 2019, at the earliest. Nowhere in their statements was this crucial fact explained. Not accepting responsibility for the continuing failures to retain highly trained pilot officers seemed to be the end game.

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