A MOTHER-of-four who served in Afghanistan with the Irish Army is leading the battle to get more women in the Defence Forces.
Commandant Jayne Lawlor admits it was tougher leaving her son and three stepchildren at home with husband Derek than being one of seven Irish troops based at Nato headquarters in Kabul.
But the 38-year-old claims the military is making strides in getting females to enlist and progress through the ranks while having a family.
"Having just returned from a six-month trip to Afghanistan, leaving four children at home with my husband, I fully realise how difficult it is with children," she said.
"Personally, I think it is the partners at home who should be given the medal.
"I had previously served in Lebanon, Liberia and Kosovo without children and a family does make it much more difficult for all parties."
Comdt Lawlor – who is a gender, equality and diversity officer – admitted the physical training for the job is hard, but she rejected any perceptions that the military is not suitable as a career for women.
Despite being office based in Afghanistan, the soldier – a member of the Cavalry Corps – revealed she was an integral part of the action and community in previous missions. After Kosovo in 2006, she took a career break to have her son.
Comdt Lawlor revealed recruitment campaigns have been launched through social media, sports clubs and schools to attract more female applicants.
The first women joined the Defence Forces in 1980 and the number has grown to 564 across the army, air corps and navy, 6pc of the force.
"We are making progress as we now have three female Lieutenant Colonel in the Defence Forces and we also have our first female Sergeant Major which is hugely positive and will also demonstrate to other females that it is possible," she said.
"In addition, the number of females who are mothers deploying overseas has increased. Recent photos of the troops returning from Lebanon showed returning mothers with their children and this is great to see."