An Cosantóir

February 2020

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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Page 22 of 39 THE DEFENCE FORCES MAGAZINE | 23 He never used the route, they flew him out, but we had it covered just in case. The experience in Africa revolutionised my understanding of humanity and I finally understood man's capacity for good and evil. Thoughts about how I wanted my life to go washed over me as we rocked around the war torn, red earth of Liberia like a living paradox. We were armed to the teeth, but making lives measur- ably better. We had the machinery and the manpower to bring death and darkness, but we brought light. Only with the perspec- tive time brings can I begin to glimpse the profundity of that formative moment. At a young age my vision of what life could be, the good and the bad, was growing exponentially and it was all happening surrounded by my military brothers. After what we witnessed we could never again feel justified to complain. The thing a lot of civilians don't understand about the allure of the armed forces is that if you're lucky, like I was, you experi- ence the trifecta of adventure, purpose and camaraderie, in such epic proportions it rewires your brain. I realise how lucky I am because some people go their entire lives never experienc- ing that depth of friendship and brotherhood that many of us in service have felt. Before I had gone overseas I had applied for a cadetship with the Air Corps. One day between patrols I was summoned to the office for a call from DFHQ, in which I was informed I was to be flown home to begin officer training. It's funny how both sides of the rank structure see the short- comings of the other, but having served as a private and as an officer I can honestly say that great people exist on both sides. I was now training with trainee officers who would someday have my best friends in their charge. Myself and some other cadets who had come up through the ranks were executing a parallel mission: to let the army and our cadet class know that privates were not to be underestimated. The cadet class was a driven bunch. A mixture of people with de- grees and people who'd never been to college, but had just flown back from overseas. Having been in the army already was definitely a double-edged sword. We knew how to play the game, be the 'grey man', and of course, step up to help others excel. Many of my class have gone on to command troops overseas and take charge of the most revered units in the Defence Forces. For anyone reading this who thinks officers have it cushy, I'm de- lighted to share, they don't. Between being debriefed in icy rivers, learning to speak publicly, and writing academic essays in between rock around the clock, I can honestly say cadets do not have it easy. I know right now, there is a private, NCO, or civilian reading this thinking; 'It's a closed shop, they'd never let me in because I don't have … XYZ, etc.' That's just not true. There is truth in the saying 'Where there's a will, there's a way.' By the end of training, this one- time private had been awarded The Tactical Sword for Leadership, and held the onerous position of mess president which because of the workload I think was honestly a punishment. I share this not to brag, but because I'd like to help flip the mind- set around seeking promotion from 'I couldn't!' to 'Why wouldn't I?' In fact, all the cadets with previous service excelled on all fronts. The big lesson was that we could achieve whatever we put our minds to; what we once thought was impossible was now a reality. I immediately decided to retire, as I had always wanted to do stand-up comedy and now I was 100% sure that with enough work I could achieve my dream. I retired happily as a lieuten- ant, thankful that the army way of life had pushed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, helped me overcome my perceived limits. I may have retired as an officer but I never would have made it anywhere if I had not been forged in the ferocious fires of the Air Corps fire crew. Next stop, Rough Set Rwanda. The Simon Community's national partnerships development man- ager, Jennifer Kitson, said: "We would like to thank Francis for his bravery and commitment in undertaking this mission to raise funds for Simon Communities, which demonstrates how individuals can creatively apply their own unique skills and experience to do good. We are delighted that the almost €20,000 raised through Francis's extraordinary efforts will help people all across Ireland to close the door on homelessness for good." I'd like to help flip the mindset around seek- ing promotion from 'I couldn't!' to 'Why wouldn't I?' Francis on patrol in Liberia in 2005. Francis meets Naval Service members while 'roughing it' in Dublin.

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