Life as a female soldier in the Irish Defence Forces: 'challenging but rewarding'
"Don’t think you can’t do it just because you're a woman".
She's marched for miles, spent six months on an overseas mission in Lebanon and is now on a Potential Non-Commissioned Officers Course (PNCOs Course)...meet Donna, our kick-ass female soldier.
Being a soldier is not your average nine-to-five job - long days are spent replicating real-life combat situations, away from family and everything that is familiar to you.
And while that's a turn-off for some people, Donna has relished every moment of her seven years in the Army and wears her colours proudly. "The pride of representing Ireland on a day to day basis and wearing the Tri Colour is a great feeling. Some challenges include time away from family and some courses are tough but very enjoyable and rewarding, in particular when you are helping people or learning new skills."
Donna has always wanted to become a soldier but when it came to signing up her family were reluctant to see her make the move “because it would be too hard" - but she was determined and successfully completed her recruit training and three star course to make it to where she is today - training to become a junior leader in the Defence Forces.
The fact that there are more men than women in the Defence Forces doesn't faze her and she is keen to echo this sentiment to every woman out there. "Everyone starts off fresh and don’t think you can’t do it just because you are a woman, everyone is encouraged to reach their own potential."
Being a team player trumps fitness when it comes to success in the Military. “People always think fitness is the number one priority, but that’s not it, it’s about being honest and a real team-player.” However, fitness is an advantage for new recruits and they must pass a physical test during the recruitment process.
So, what does a day in the life of the Army entail for Donna?
No day is ever the same for a soldier but Donna's day always starts with a check parade, followed by an inspection. "After this we generally go on to a PT (physical training) parade. Usually we conduct a battle PT which involves running long distances with equipment that weighs in excess of 40lbs and a weapon but we build up to this level during training. This gets topped up with logs and stretchers to improve our robustness. After PT we usually attend lectures".
"There really are no two days the same in the Defence Forces, I am currently on a PNCO's course, we have completed lessons in the classroom, been on exercise in the Glen of Imaal and are developing our leadership and problem solving skills. In my day to day job in the 7 Infantry Battalion my job is to maintain the personnel management system (PMS) on a daily basis."
Life in the military can be demanding, but she still gets to enjoy a Netflix binge or a night out like the rest of us. "I still find time to have a social life if I'm not on duty or on exercise. I find it important to unwind after a hard week of training."
Pre-army life for Donna saw her training to become a fitness instructor but being in the army "instilled a level of discipline and maturity" in her that she didn't have before.
Since her induction, Donna has completed a range of tactical and administrative courses such as; Field Artillery Gunners Course, Infantry Dismount Course, PMS Course, Data Protection and CCTV Operatives Course. Donna is currently undergoing a PNCO Course in 2 BTC to qualify as a junior leader within the organisation - the army is a real opportunity to learn.
Donna also served on an overseas peacekeeping mission with 106 Infantry Battalion to Lebanon where she spent six months patrolling villages and UN camps. “I was in Lebanon in 2011 and completed a six month tour of duty with the 106 Infantry Battalion. I was part of Recce Group, we completed patrols daily in MOWAGS which involved us patrolling different villages and other UN camps. I also conducted regular barrack security duties whilst not on patrol."
But, Donna's proudest army moment to date is taking part in the 1916/2016 Commemorative Parade taking great "pride in being part of such an important historical event".
Defence Forces launch recruitment campaign - could you pass the test?
15 weeks of intense training go into making every Irish Army Private.
Training involves both a physical and academic aspect. "The physical aspect is very robust but this is essential as it is building you up for tactics at the later stages of the course. The academic aspect of the course involves lectures and different modules that are required to become an instructor and a leader within the Defence Forces.
The fitness test consists of a two mile run, sit ups and press ups depending on age and gender (women and over 40 males are allowed to complete modified press ups).
Defence Forces launch recruitment campaign.
The Defence Forces is a representation of Irish Society and we must reflect those we serve, as such the Defence Forces are eager to recruit males and females from all communities. The Defence Forces offers an opportunity to travel the world while representing your country on an international stage, and obtaining first class education and training along the way. While physical fitness is an important element of the Defence Forces, there is so much more to it than that, our soldiers, sailors and airwomen are taught a range of skills throughout their careers.