To “send in the cavalry” is internationally recognised shorthand for calling in specialist support in a major emergency or disaster.
It was an image often used in old Western movies: the 7th Cavalry galloping into view to save the besieged homesteaders at the 11th hour.
In Ireland the term is intuitively understood to mean one thing: send in the Army to the rescue.
For as long as anyone can remember, whenever there has been emergencies caused by storms or fires, or disruption to public services during strikes, the Government has called on the one group it can rely on, and takes for granted: the Defence Forces.
Our soldiers, sailors and air crew – disciplined and well-trained – have never shirked the call of duty to take on whatever mission they are given.
In fact, their reputation is such that the public instinctively feel a sense of relief when they hear the Army is to be deployed in a crisis – they know the job will be done.
Faith in the troops was instilled in the national psyche during past public-sector strikes, particularly the turbulent industrial strife of the ’70s and ’80s, when troops were sent in to clear mountains of rubbish on the streets, operate bus routes, deliver fuel, fight fires and drive ambulances.
They even had to act as prison guards when jail staff went on strike.
When the Covid pandemic swept across our shores they were placed on the front line.
The Army, Navy and Air Corps built and helped operate test centres, did contact tracing, and delivered medical supplies, PPE gear, Covid tests and vaccines.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Army was given the grimmest of tasks as the primary response agency in the event of a worst-case scenario whereby the hospital system was overrun. Troops were tasked with building and managing large makeshift outdoor morgues and unpacking body bags.
Thankfully they never had to carry out this task but the point is they were still prepared for the worst.
This list illustrates how our service men and women are always prepared to go over and beyond the call of duty.
But, as has become so glaringly obvious in recent years, the loyalty and respect has never been reciprocated by the Government.
Over the past six years or so, the Defence Forces has been suffering an alarming brain drain as service personnel have been leaving in droves because their pay and conditions are so poor.
The war in Ukraine has finally focused political attention on how the organisation has effectively been run into the ground and barely capable of fulfilling its military roles at home and abroad.
The recent report of the Commission on the Defence Forces admitted it did not have the personnel or resources to mount a meaningful defence of the country. At a time when the Government is about to commit to a sharp increase in investment, and increase numbers by around 3,000, the Defence Forces cannot hope to even fill the current establishment strength.
Military insiders say that since January an average of 40 personnel, not including officers, have been leaving the Army, Navy and Air Corps each month.
Denial of the Working Time Directive means that troops must work as long as required, and with fewer personnel they are doubling up on duties and are left exhausted and fatigued.
Which all helps put context on the latest Government order to send in the Army, this time to relieve the security screening crisis at Dublin Airport.
The announcement will give some reassurance to the travelling public that the troops will make a difference if called on. However, for many in the Defence Forces this latest deployment will be regarded as another insult.
Today, troops from the 28th Battalion in Finner Camp in Donegal will make the long journey away from their families to Dublin Airport where they will undergo security training for the DAA.
For their efforts, after tax, the soldiers will come out with a meagre €2.25 an hour extra, which explains why there is such a continuing exodus from the services.
There is a bitter irony that won’t be lost on the troops helping ease the security logjams so that families can get off on their first sunshine holidays in three years.
Many of them, particularly privates and junior NCOs, cannot afford to take their families away to the sun.
The Dublin Airport debacle is likely to lead to an even greater exodus of troops who have had enough.