As Minister for Defence Simon Coveney reviewed 189 troops at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, yesterday, prior to their departure for a six-month tour of duty of the Lebanon, it was a bittersweet occasion for the second-in-command of the 47th Infantry group, Comdt Bryan Carley, and his wife Suzie Lacey.
The couple met 14 years ago when Comdt Carley served with the Irish troops in Kosova and Suzie went there to film Irish troops serving there.
“This is my sixth trip abroad with the defence forces but my first since our two children, Aliana, aged four, and Paddy, 20 months, were born,” said Comdt Carley. “My last trip was in 2010 to Chad. So it will be different now with two kids.”
Suzie, native of Lisnagry, Co Limerick, said: “ I went to Kosavo to produce a commercial and Bryan was a captain and looked after us very well. We stayed in touch after his trip to Kosavo and romance blossomed a bit later, after years and years of trying to date me. So here we are now.
“Although it’s sad to see him go off on a tour of duty, I get consolation from knowing the great work the Irish defence forces do abroad.”
Lt Col Ian Byrne, a native of Clonmel who commands the UNIFIL force, said they have been preparing very hard for their tour of duty.
“There are dangers certainly, but they are dangers we have been trained for and in many ways we wouldn’t be there unless there were dangers,” said Lt Col Byrne.
Lt Margaret Hogan from Nenagh came to through the ranks to become an officer and is one of 24 women in the battalion.
“I love the army,” she said. “I am based here in Sarsfield Barracks.”
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said things in the Middle East can change very quickly.
“You can never be quite sure what the next challenge will be and that’s why training and preparation is so important,” said Mr Coveney. “As Minister for Defence, the professionalism, the level of training, the fitness levels, the reaction levels and preparation for missions like this are really hugely impressive when you get to know how the defence forces work.”
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