Irish soldiers being deployed to warn-torn Chad this month will face dangers, they were warned today.
But Defence Minister Willie told the 98th Infantry Battalion they will also help improve the lives of nearly half a million refugees.
Around 390 soldiers, usually based at barracks in Kilkenny, Cork, Clonmel and Limerick, are being shipped out to the central African country in the coming weeks.
Mr O’Dea, reviewing the troops at Kilkenny Castle, said Ireland will be proud of those involved in the peacekeeping mission.
“Despite being a small nation we can stand tall when it comes to helping some of the most beleaguered people on this planet,” he said.
“Your bravery, enthusiasm and determination will help improve the lives of nearly half a million refugees in Chad.”
The first deployment from the 98th Infantry Battalion will leave Dublin on September 21 followed by the remaining troops on October 7.
They will be taking over from the 97th Infantry Battalion who have been serving in Goz Beida for four months.
“As with all missions the health and safety of our personnel is of paramount concern,” Mr O’Dea told the troops.
“As with all such missions you will face difficulties and dangers, but you can travel to Chad confident that you are fully trained and equipped to carry out your duties.”
The minister highlighted the 94 soldiers among the battalion who were embarking on their first tour of duty overseas in the mission.
“I know the strain and pressure the separation from family and loved ones places on you,” he said.
“I want to pay tribute to your family and friends, many of who are here today, for the unheralded role they play in Ireland’s contribution to peacekeeping missions abroad.
“The support they play is of vital importance to the success of all overseas missions.
“The encouragement, support and loyalty of your family and friends is vital in enabling you to serve abroad and doing your duty.”
The troops are being led by Battalion Commander, Lt Col Kieran Brennan.