herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

'It's great to be home' as 130 brave Irish troops return to tears and hugs

Noel O'Callaghan from Mullingar is welcomed home by his grand daughter, Aleesha Penrose (6)pictured this evening when 103 Irish troops from the 48th Infantry Group, United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) returned home to Casement Aerodrome, Ba
Noel O'Callaghan from Mullingar is welcomed home by his grand daughter, Aleesha Penrose (6)pictured this evening when 103 Irish troops from the 48th Infantry Group, United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) returned home to Casement Aerodrome, Ba

They have just returned from a tour of duty in the Middle East, but the most pressing mission for 130 Irish soldiers yesterday was returning to their families.

Milky tea, dinners from mammies and a more varied wardrobe were all cause for celebration for members of the 48th Infantry Group as they touched down at Baldonnel Aerodrome.

The peacekeeping force had been deployed to the Golan Heights on the border of Syria in April 2015.

Signalman Paul Carroll (20), from Glanmire, Co Cork, was on his first tour overseas, but wasn't fazed by the dangerous location.

"It took a lot to get used to it, but the training prepared me," the youngest member of the group said.

"I was very happy out there, I was comfortable."

Waiting at the airbase for Paul were his mother Annette and his girlfriend Niamh O'Connor (19).

"He loved it and it was a great experience for him. Now there'll be a couple of days at home, peace and quiet, and home-cooked meals," said Annette.

Meanwhile, it was Sergeant Major Noel O'Callaghan's seventh tour abroad, in a military career that has spanned 40 years.

"It's great to be home," he told the Herald.

"It was a great mission, we have some great people out there, but really it's about getting the lads home safe and getting them home to their families."

"I think our young people, in particular are better humanitarians, because they see the families that they're coming home to today are exactly like the families that are over there," Noel, from Westmeath, added.

Highlights

For Sergeant Major O'Callaghan (57), spending time with family and escaping from his military uniform were particular highlights to look forward to.

"It'll be great to just take off my boots," he said.

The force will have a few weeks of well-earned rest before they embark on their next assignment.

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