Speech by Mr. Michael Smith, T.D., Minister for Defence,
at the Commissioning Ceremony of the 20th Air Corps Cadet Class
Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel 22 November 2001
Chief of Staff, Secretary General of the Department of Defence, General Officer Commanding the Air Corps, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here in Baldonnel today on what is one of the most important occasions in the Air Corps' calendar. I want to begin by offering my congratulations to the eight young men who have just received their commissions. Today is a very special day for them and for their families.
These cadets commenced their training in September 1999 at Baldonnel. Shortly afterwards they entered into eight months of basic military training with cadets from the Army and the Naval Service and became part of the 76th Cadet Class. Like their Army and Naval Service colleagues they became proficient in skills such as map reading and weapons handling. The next stage of training involved basic flying training and I have no doubt that this was the element most eagerly awaited. Towards the end of the flight training four cadets went on to train on the gazelle helicopter and the remaining four began training on the Beechcraft Kingair aircraft.
The Defence Forces of today present very challenging roles to all its members. These demands require that young officers have the best possible preparation, training and education. The training of Army, Naval Service and Air Corps cadets is wide and varied and is designed to equip them with the best and most modern foundation for their careers as leaders in one of the most respected professions.
These eight young men are becoming involved in an organisation which is changing and will continue to change. Only last month I signed the regulation for a new organisational structure for the Air Corps. Key senior appointments have been filled. Congratulations to those involved. The new organisation will ensure a sustained and beneficial future for Air Corps personnel and their customers alike and with a proper personnel development plan the Air Corps will continue to offer rewarding and challenging careers.
Here in Baldonnel approximately £9.5 million has been spent since 1997 on refurbishing and upgrading buildings, including the construction of this new hangar which I had the honour of officially opening twelve months ago. The construction of new transport workshops, costing more than £800,000, is nearing completion. In addition, a contract for the construction of a new Headquarters for the 3rd Support Wing will be signed next Monday, the 26th November. The cost of this building will be about £2.4 million and it will be completed towards the end of 2002. This will bring the total expenditure on infrastructure in Baldonnel to almost £12 million in 5 years.
In February 2000 the Government approved the White Paper on Defence and one of the immediate benefits of that process was that up to £250 million extra would be spent over 10 years on modernising equipment and infrastructure. As far as the Air Corps is concerned £55 million of this expenditure has been earmarked for the acquisition of aircraft. There are urgent equipment modernisation requirements in the Air Corps and this allocation will initiate the vital investment necessary in new aircraft. Priority is being given to the acquisition of medium range helicopters and I know that this is a subject that is close to the hearts of Air Corps personnel. The procurement process is proceeding and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on this matter within two weeks. Tender documentation recently issued for the lease of a replacement aircraft for the Beechcraft and responses are due in January. Preliminary work has also begun on the acquisition of trainer aircraft and that project will move ahead next year.
The Oath taken here today by these young men is all embracing in its scope and content. They have sworn to be faithful to Ireland and loyal to the Constitution, to obey all lawful orders and not to be members of, or subscribe to, political organisations or secret societies. The Oath is the bedrock on which the Defence Forces has loyally served the State. It follows from the terms of the Oath that there can be no limitation in the matter of their commitment to the service of the State. It distinguishes them from others and it requires others under their command to make the same commitment in the performance of their duty.
As I have said, this is an important day in the lives of the eight young people here before us today. It is a day when they and their families are entitled to feel justly proud. They have chosen a very challenging and rewarding career and I hope you all enjoy the many positive and enjoyable aspects of military life. Foremost amongst these are comradeship and the very highest level of job satisfaction which comes from leading and guiding others.
Congratulations and well done to everybody.