WITH IRISH peacekeepers (pictured above) about to head off for their latest mission abroad, the Defences Forces were yesterday involved in pre-deployment training in advance of their forthcoming tour of duty in Syria.
The 46th Infantry Group is deploying there on a mission established to supervise the implementation of an ‘Area of Separation’ and two equal zones of limited forces and armaments in the Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel.
The Irish contingent will constitute the Force Reserve Company and its tasks will be to provide Armoured Force Protection for UNDOF Personnel, to conduct regular patrolling of the Area of Separation and to provide mutual support to UNDOF elements located in Observation Posts throughout the Area of Separation.
(More members of the search and clearance team)
Such a deployment is not without its risks. Last November, a platoon of Irish peacekeepers escaped unharmed when they were shelled in Syria yesterday.
The 39 soldiers were on escort duty when three shells landed within 200m of their convoy. And another ten shells landed near them on their way back to their base in the Golan Heights.
The men, who are mostly attached to the 2nd Brigade at Dublin’s Cathal Brugha Barracks, were with 24 other soldiers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force.
They had left their base at Faouar in a ten-vehicle convoy when they stumbled into a skirmish between government forces and rebels.
Captain Brian Coughlan (pictured above), from Co Offaly, said last night: ‘Obviously there is a certain amount of apprehension but with the training we have all been conducting over the past few weeks and months, I believe we will be more than able to deal with the challenges we face.’
The 26-year-old engineering graduate will be running a specialist search and clearance team that will be tasked with eliminating road side bombs.
The 46th Infantry Group will be the third Irish contingent to deploy with UNDOF.
It is comprised of 130 Irish personnel – comprising of 14 officers, a chaplain and 115 other ranks – and will constitute the Force Reserve Company of an overall UNDOF Mission strength of 1,250 troops.
Other states contributing military personnel to the mission include Fiji Islands, Philippines, India and Nepal.
(Glen of Imaal today, Golan Heights tomorrow . . . )