Members of the Defence Forces (Óglaigh na hÉireann) formed an integral part of the recent 1848 Tricolour Celebrations. Four Waterford men share their experiences of life in the line of duty.
Members of the Defence Forces formed an integral part of many of the events which were held to celebrate the recent 1848 Tricolour Festival in Waterford.
During the official launch of the festival in Central Library, a Defence Forces recruitment and information day was held.
In attendance were Captain John Butler and Lieutenant Shane Flood from the Defence Forces, who shared some of their experiences of life in the line of duty.
Captain John Butler from Grange Heights in Waterford is a pilot in the Air Corps.
He attended De La Salle College and spent four years in University College Dublin (UCD).
He joined the Air Corps in 2000 and underwent much training which included nine months in the Curragh Camp army base and military college.
It was then back to the Air Corps where he spent just under a year and a half training.
“We did everything from basic handling, how to turn an aircraft, how to climb, descend, aerobatics, advanced formation, flying side by side with other aircraft,” he explained.
He then progressed onto the advanced stage of Wings Course training and went to Flight Safety International in Paris where he flew the Beechcraft King Air multi engine aircraft.
In total, training took approximately two years.
“Then the class was divided up. Some went to helicopter wing squadron and some went to fly fix wing aircraft. Our careers advanced from there,” explained Capt Butler.
He has flown a variety of different aircraft types and has provided transport for dignitaries as well as air ambulance.
On a day to day basis, he says his role is hugely varied.
“At the moment I fly the Casa Maritime Patrol Aircraft and, in conjunction with the Naval Service, we do maritime patrols out over the Atlantic. We could spend anything from six to seven hours out over the Atlantic sighting and recording trawlers, fishing vessels, yachts, cargo vessels.”
He and his colleagues also assist the Coastguard here in Waterford as well as in Shannon.
“When they have to do a rescue mission that’s particularly far away, we act as top cover, watching over them as they do a mission. We would relay any communications back to land and co-ordinate any support they may need and steer them to any stricken vessel,” he explained.
Capt Butler said he would thoroughly recommend a career in the Defence Forces.
“From my perspective, it’s a fantastic career,” he said.
“A career in the Defence Forces is probably the most varied career you could ever have. The previous recruitment tag of the Defence Forces was ‘A Life Less Ordinary’. It is certainly that and much more.”
Through his work, he has spent considerable time overseas including six months in Bosnia serving as a peacekeeper.
He also acted as Staff Officer for the General Officer who commands the Air Corps and spent time in Lebanon.
Additionally, various different appointments have brought him to countries throughout Europe.
He says a career in the Defence Forces teaches good discipline from the very beginning.
“It’s about discipline, comradery, and working together to get a mission completed,” he said.
“You form a bond with your classmates when you join. A couple of mine have left since but we’re still so close – it’s like gaining another family. If you like sports and training, the importance of maintaining health and fitness is embedded in the ethos of the Defence Forces and is really encouraged.”
He is completing an MBA in Aviation Management at University of Limerick (UL) and says all in the Air Corps have been very supportive and flexible in order to allow him to attend college.
Fellow Waterford man Lieutenant Shane Flood from Passage East is based at Kilkenny Army Barracks.
“I’m lucky to be based so close to where I live,” he said.
“But I do have facilities to stay up there which I use every so often.”