As published in An Cosantóir in August 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Greg Dorney
On 20th June 2011 on a lovely hot summer’s day, over 100 children gathered to watch and enjoy an open day in Kilbride Camp, County Wicklow, one of the Defence Forces’ most used training facilities, which can house up to 140 troops and their equipment. Not since the British Army were billeted in tents there in the late 1800s has the Stage Five area seen so many potential new recruits!
The children from the neighbouring St Bridget’s national school in Manor Kilbride were invited by the Camp Commandant, Comdt Patrick Lavelle, to view a number of military displays provided by a variety of units and corps from throughout the Defence Forces. It was hoped that these displays would give the children an understanding of what goes on in the Kilbride training area and what causes those loud bangs and explosions they may hear from time to time in school or at home.
The children and two of their teachers, Ms Bernie Shorne and Ms Ciara Coakley, were guided around by the camp’s senior NCO, CQMS Patrick McKay, who gave them a safety brief and told the children to keep an eye out for any lost or wandering adults. Most of the camp staff also brought along their own small children to view the displays and to see where Daddy worked.
The displays started at 11am with Cpl Clive Dunne leading his section (from 5 Inf Bn) in arrowhead formation across open ground in search of a hidden ‘enemy’. This demonstration was being explained to the now very excited children by Lt Adam Mollen (5 Inf Bn) who able fielded a barrage of questions coming rapid fire from his young audience. It wasn’t long before Cpl Dunne’s section came under fire from an enemy sniper. After taking cover in a nearby ditch the section carried out a left-flanking attack under cover of smoke on the enemy sniper who was being pinned down by the section’s FSG.
After the fire-fight was over all the participants moved to a position in front of the children to give them a close-up view of the soldiers and their equipment.
Within minutes of the end of this display an Air Corps AW139 helicopter swooped down out of the sky. The aircraft, piloted by Capt O’Reilly and Lt Hynes, whizzed into view and hovered above the viewing stand to allow the crewman, Sgt Mark Dunne, to wave briefly at the children. The ‘Wow!’-effect as the children watched this great, green beast perform some quick and exciting manoeuvres above them was clearly written all over their faces. The pilots then landed the heli in the camp on a hard stand among the other displays still awaiting the children.
Also on view in the display area in the camp were a mobile EOD unit from 2 E Bde Ord Coy, manned by Cpls Carl Esmonde and John Groarke, who provided a close-up view of their equipment, and members of 5 Inf Bn with battalion support weapons and a sniper rifle system, complete with spotting scope set up for all to try. However, it was the AW139 that stole the show, with so many of the children and the adults wanting their photograph taken at the aircraft.
The day finally ended with everyone being treated to a hearty lunch in the brand new dining facility, which cost €1 million to build and equip. The excellent meal, prepared and served by Cpl Ian Barry (2 LSB) and his staff, provided many different choices for their hungry young guests.
Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie.