over 60 of the 100 plus troops from The Curragh Camp to be deployed to the Lebanon on a UN peacekeeping misison next month are from Kildare. The trip will be family affair for father and son team Sergeant Brian Kearney and Private Dean Kearney.
“This will be my seventh trip,” explained Sgt Kearney speaking to the Leader ahead of the five month long overseas mission which takes place on June 23 and June 26.
“My first trip to the Lebanon took place in 1988. It was my first time living away from home but you get familiar with it very quickly and you get into a routine. It was all letters back then, no e-mail or Skype, there wasn’t even a phone - Dean will have a totally different experience than me.”
This will be his son Private Kearney’s first trip away with the army.
“I’m nervous and excited,” said the 20-year-old. “The training has been intense. I’m looking forward to going over with all the guys - it will be a big cultural experience and a different way of life.”
Sgt Kearney saw at first hand how women are treated differently over there.
“When I was over there the first time a woman went by carrying a bundle of sticks while two young men walked behind her. She put down the sticks at one point as she was tired and the two men picked them up and put them back on her head. If that was over here the young men would have offered to carry the sticks for her.”
Lft Daire Roche, who will also be part of the Battalion, explained some of the other differences between the two countries.
“There are certain things you do and certain things you don’t do,” he said.
“Particularly in the area of religion. They are mainly Muslim and Christians but there has always been an extraordinary good relations between the Lebanese and Irish. Syria is a hot plate at the moment - Lebanon is a country that has politically and geographically been caught in the middle. Things can develop quickly and the situation can change in a matter of hours. The worst case scenario would be if the Israelis attacked while we were there. The Lebanese have a go at the Israelis and the Israelis have a go at the Lebanese. There are dissident gropus within Lebanon operating on their own mandate. We are there to support the legitimate government and army. We have great confidence in our troops and in our equipment.”
The troops are being deployed to Tibnin in Southern Lebanon, an area which was previously the Irish operations HQ, and they will patrol an area of around 140km. To make sure the troops are well looked after in their down time there is a welfare officer who organises quiz nights, DVD nights and sports nights.