'The navy is my family': Irish Defence Forces welcomes first Rastafarian recruit

Naval Service is all about teamwork and brotherhood says new member who is marching in the footsteps of his grandfather
'The navy is my family': Irish Defence Forces welcomes first Rastafarian recruit

Ansoumane Firkins and his classmates at their passing-out parade in Haulbowline, Co Cork. Ansoumane, whose grandfather, Tamba Kallas Traoré, had a distinguished career in Guinea, is permitted a derogation from standard crew cuts due to his Rastafarian religion. 

The Defence Forces are becoming more multicultural, and some of their latest recruits highlight this, including their first Rastafarian.

Ansoumane Firkins, aged 24, was born in the Czech Republic to parents who came from Guinea, West Africa. 

Those with the usual military crewcuts may well be envious of his dreadlocks, which he's allowed to keep because this is part of the Rastafarian religion.

“It was a bit of a shock to them [the other recruits] when they first saw my hair. But they have been very supportive,” Ansoumane said.

He was in the latest batch of Naval Service recruits who have just passed out, which included sailors born in Brazil, Latvia, Romania, and Croatia. 

In fact, one-fifth of the 25-strong Recruit Class Deirdre were born outside the country.

Members of Recruit Class Deirdre celebrate in the traditional way after their passing out parade at the Irish Naval Service base at Haulbowline, Co Cork.
Members of Recruit Class Deirdre celebrate in the traditional way after their passing out parade at the Irish Naval Service base at Haulbowline, Co Cork.

Ansoumane lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta and Guinea, before moving to Ireland at the age of 13 where he boarded at Newtown School, Waterford.

His late grandfather, Tamba Kallas Traoré, served in Guinea's military, and was one of the country's founding fathers when it gained its independence from France in 1958.

Ansoumane decided he wanted to follow in his grandfather's military footsteps by joining the Irish Naval Service.

He will now go on to train in communications, and is looking forward to joining the fleet. He hopes to someday return to the Naval College as an instructor.

“I don't have any family in Ireland, so now the navy is my family. It's been amazing [in the recruit class]. You really learn things and set yourself goals. It teaches you a lot about teamwork. It's about brotherhood,” Ansoumane said.

Reflecting the increasingly diverse Irish Defence Forces, one fifth of the members of Recruit Class Deirdre were born elsewhere, including Brazil, Latvia, Romania, and Croatia.  
Reflecting the increasingly diverse Irish Defence Forces, one fifth of the members of Recruit Class Deirdre were born elsewhere, including Brazil, Latvia, Romania, and Croatia.  

Luis Eduardo Espindola Caldas was also in the same recruit class. The 23-year-old was born in Brazil and his father, also Luis, served with that country's special forces and was also a trained medic.

Luis junior's skills will prove very useful to the Naval Service — he has a degree in electronics and is a trained chef.

He has been living in Ireland with his family for the past four years and worked as a chef at the Cornstore restaurant in Cork.

"I hope to go for communications because of my degree in electronics," he said. "I have two languages, English and Portuguese, which will help as well." 

He was presented with the prize for best kit at the passing-out parade.

Latvian-born Daniel Tuceks, 19, moved to Ireland when he was just three. He was awarded the prize of best recruit, and is not a person you'd mess with — his hobbies include martial arts, judo, and wrestling.

Jack Doyle, 20, from Wicklow, was declared best shot. He became interested in a career in the Defence Forces from his brother, who is currently serving in the United States Army.

The recruits decided to do a charity fundraiser for a project which is close to the hearts of all in the Naval Service.

They presented a cheque for €2,560 to the ONE (Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen) towards the building of a veterans' support centre in Cobh. 

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