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Defence Forces Training Centre, 23 November 2008. Curragh

Assistant Secretary, Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here in the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh today to perform my first commissioning ceremony as Minister of State at the Department of Defence. My colleague, Minister O’Dea has asked me to pass on his best wishes to you all and to congratulate on his behalf the Reserve Officers who have just been commissioned. Unfortunately, he is unable to be present today because of Government business.

Today’s ceremony acknowledges the personal achievement of these 15 new officers who have just received their commissions. In order to attain the very high standard of excellence required to become officers, they have all undergone a demanding course of instruction in a wide range of military-related subjects. The training placed great reliance on development of the individual and on the ability to lead and operate military forces in pressure situations. To succeed in the course and to earn their commission, each of these people have displayed all of the military skills, leadership qualities and the commitment required of a Defence Forces’ officer.

Today’s ceremony marks the culmination of your many years of commitment and dedicated service to the Reserve Forces and your successful completion of a very thorough programme of training. You are taking up your duties as newly commissioned officers in an organisation that you clearly believe in and one to which you are deeply committed. It is a day when each of you and your families are entitled to feel very proud.

As officers of the new Reserve Defence Force, you are taking up your leadership roles in a part of the Defence Forces that is developing and changing to meet the tasks given to it by the Government. The implementation of the Reserve Defence Force Implementation Plan is ongoing. It is progressing well and is resulting in a significantly enhanced Reserve Defence Force capability with major improvements in terms of clothing, equipment and training.

In addition, as I’m sure you are aware, the Plan provides for the development of an integrated element of the Army Reserve. A pilot integration project was initiated last year and whilst the numbers participating were less than expected, valuable lessons were learned. The pilot was extended into 2008 and the military authorities are currently reviewing the project and will submit a report to Minister O’Dea outlining options for the further development of the Integrated Reserve.

Our Reserve Defence Force has always relied on the spirit of voluntary commitment. The vibrancy of the Reserve organisation today is testament to the enduring volunteer ethos in twenty-first century Ireland. The Government greatly values the loyalty and commitment of the personnel of the Reserve Forces. Furthermore, we recognise that, as the new Reserve evolves over the next few years, it is essential that these defining characteristics be retained.

Many young people join the Reserve to sample military life in advance of choosing a career in the Permanent Defence Force. I was particularly pleased to learn that in the revised Cadetship Competitions, additional bonus marks are awarded to candidates with previous experience in either the Reserve Defence Force or the Permanent Defence Force. I have been advised that between the 2007 and 2008 Cadetship competitions 27 of the successful candidates offered cadetships had been awarded bonus marks as a result of their qualifying Reserve service.

Of course, it goes without saying that these officers wouldn’t have made it through the course without the assistance of both their instructors and their more experienced Defence Force colleagues who helped them through the course. The dedication and commitment of these people who helped to mould these men and women into officers must be acknowledged. They deserve a special mention for the experience and knowledge that they brought to the task of developing these officers for their future roles and I would like to thank all those involved, throughout the Defence Forces, for their fine work.

It is also important to acknowledge the family support and backing that enables our Reservists to attend the parades, exercises, camps and other activities that take place throughout the year. In that context, I am delighted to see so many family members here today and I look forward to meeting you later. The support of families is essential for the organisation to survive and is greatly appreciated.

Today however, belongs primarily to these new officers. They are charged with providing leadership and guidance to others, a responsibility they will, I have no doubt discharge with excellence. It is a proud day for them and for their loved ones. I hope that you enjoy the rest of the day and will remember this ceremony with pride and with pleasure for many years to come.

Thank you very much.


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