Luke O’Mahony from Cork was one of 30 brave young people who took part in the Gaisce / Defence Forces Challenge in June. Luke tells us about his experience at the challenge and how he would love to join the Defence Forces some day.
I went on the Gaisce Army Challenge on the 3rd of June and have completed it successfully and received a certificate of completion of the challenge. I travelled up on the bus the night before the army challenge I went and stayed in a B&B with my dad. I was so excited, I went for dinner with my dad and took a lovely stroll down by the canal in Athlone town, it was right next to the barracks aswell and it was getting dark in the evening so we went on up to the B&B which is almost 2 minutes from the canal. I headed on to the B&B and went got my stuff ready. I had a shower and that and headed to bed I couldn’t sleep at all while I was in bed, I could see the barracks across the canal and I got up a few times to get fresh air and one time just as I was dozing off I heard a loud noise and my window was open aswell I jumped up and looked out it was a helicopter landing. Next I saw an ambulance an ambulance jeep a garda car and I couldn’t see anymore after that. The next day I went to the gate and as the day went on I saw the helipad and asked the lads who were over there and said what I saw last night and they said that they were medevac and air ambulance so I got the drift from there on, overall challenge was unbelievable the people and the challenges I faced were great as I like a challenge and I like meeting new people im seriously thinking of joining the Defence Forces. I myself think I would be a very good asset in the Defence Forces.
So, the first day was passed on while in the evening we were given the belongings and equipment we would need along the challenge. We were given a big army bag with rain gear, a poncho, a helmet for going in the trucks and on the ground. So while we were given all our gear and equipment, we were sent down to get our uniforms and after that we were to go for our showers at six o clock, and then go for dinner and wind down for the evening and ring our parents and all that. The first night we stayed in the army barracks, and woke up about 5:30 in the morning and we were to be on the square for 7:30. So far for the second day we were heading to the trucks to head away to the Curragh army training camp, but before we headed to the Curragh we went for breakfast and got some food into us. We then headed to the Curragh and we were split into our sections and we shown around by out section commanders. After we went on the tour our first challenge was on the assault course first where we were shown around the course in our sections and taught how to complete the course properly. So we completed the assault course, it was very challenging.
We started at 9.30 and we congregated at the gate and there was Soldiers everywhere. We were sent all the way to the other side of the barracks and we were met by a Sergeant called Lally and the brought us to a place that looked like a store room and it had a room with tea, scones and jam, so we had some tea and scones and some of the people were just sitting there then there was a lad James he was a bit mad he started off the talking and I started talking to different people, while we were talking there was people arriving the whole time. So everyone was there and were all talking and I see this man come in and say alright lads everyone listen up, and they did a roll call and we had to put money phones and lighters in to a sealable bag and put them in a box that was going to be locked. We were then brought to a tier stand meeting room and we were going in for an introduction to the weekend the thirty people were split into 3 sections and we were each given a section commander who were just average soldiers ranging from three stars to corporal, then the left tenant and sergeants were operations managers, while in the meeting room we were met by the minister for defence and another mentor of the defence forces staff officers. The day went on and we went for lunch in the canteen then we went on navigation skills and other things that were relevant to on The Ground Work.
So we woke up the third day and we got dressed and packed our sleeping bags and headed on back down to the carragh and did a 10k walk around the perimeter of the carragh camp and did some swimming and had showers then for the rest of the day while having lunch we had to go on a 22km walk around and up the mountains and we ended up at a village nearby then the trucks came along and we knew then we had to load up so we headed 100m up the road to an old mans house and the house was unreal and had a water jug and a big lawn which was well kept. He had a lovely glowing stream going through this garden too but the main reason we were going to this mans house was we were going rock climbing on his dry face of the wall by the waterfall.
So after that we headed to the truck, drank some water and loaded up and we were brought up the road and bumpy roads at that, up the roads and up the mountains so we unloaded messed around and did our own kind of thing like walking around doing our own thing but the minute it started getting dark we all had to have a challenge between the three sections we had to build a camp fire and then we cooked some rations and food and relaxed and chatted and set up our bivvys and go to sleep.
So the final day and im enjoying it so much I just don’t want to go anywhere like, so we wake up to the last day and we pack up our belongings and load our bags on the trucks and we got breakfast rolls it was the first decent bit of food we had got in days. So we were grateful of ham, we finished our rolls and got fresh cold water and headed to the trucks and everyone seen this truck coming in and a jeep with kayaks and wet suits and there was a lake near enough where we were staying so we were told that we are going kayaking, so we done that and it was fantastic so fun and exciting then offer that we were challenged to make a makeshift shelter out of branchs, moss, leaves, and anything we could find in the woodland. After that we started heading back to athlone to the army barracks so we could have showers before we met our parents and we had a barbeque and a little presentation where we were all presented with a certificate and a few things and congratulated on our completion of the challenge and they wished us luck on our completion, there was an officer in charge of the second field artillery regiment, lt col, left tenant cololonal. So that’s my story over my weekend away with the irish defence forces. It will be a moment in my life that I will always remember especially when only thirty people in ireland from thousands of schooled were picked.