ALMOST 30 members of the Defence Forces from Limerick are preparing to travel to Lebanon in the coming weeks as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.
A total of 332 Defence Forces personnel from across the country will depart for the Middle East early next month for a six-month tour of duty with the 108th Infantry Battalion,
29 of the personnel are from Limerick while other members of the battalion are based at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick.
Minister of State Paul Keogh reviewed the troops on Monday afternoon ahead of their departure.
“Ireland’s substantial contribution to international peace support operations depends on the ongoing commitment of Defence Forces personnel to serve overseas in often difficult and dangerous circumstances. Your commitment, service and loyalty to the traditions of the Defence Forces on overseas service contributes extensively to the high regard in which Ireland is held throughout the world,” he said as he addressed the troops at Sarsfield Barracks.
The advance team will depart for Lebanon next week while the remainder of the troops are due to depart during the first two weeks of May.
Once deployed, the troops will work out of three different locations in Southern Lebanon along with 176 troops from Finland.
Lieutenant Colonal Tony McKenna, who will lead the mission says he hopes there will be no major incidents.
“Hopefully we will find a stable security situation out there. The general types of operations that we do are monitoring the ceasefire, supporting the Lebanese Government - particularly the Lebanese Army and assisting the local population when we can.”
For almost a quarter of the troops who will travel to Lebanon next month, it will their first time being deployed overseas.
Quartermaster Patrick McCormack from Shannon Banks , who will be the older member of the battalion, says he looking forward to helping the younger troops.
“The more experienced you are, the more experience you pass on to the younger lads and it is a joy in fairness because it is nice to see the younger lads coming along, and enjoying it and doing what they have to do,” said the 56-year-old.
Sergeant Major Stan Hurley from Garryowen, who has served overseas 11 times previously, says there has been a lot of preparation ahead of the mission.
“Before we go there is a lot of intensive training and there is a big build up to it so it is finally time to go and I am delighted when it comes around to going because the training goes on for a couple of months so at this stage we are ready to go,” he said.