Proud dad back to salute officer son in the navy
A PROUD father returned from a tour of duty in Syria so he could formally give the first salute as an officer to his newly-commissioned son.
Battalion Quarter Master Sergeant (BQMS) John Nolan from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, has been in the Golan Heights in Syria as part of the Irish peacekeeping forces since March.
However, he was granted leave so he could return home for the commissioning ceremony of 10 new cadets including his son, James, at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour.
It was a break with tradition and only the second time in Irish naval history that two new cadets received their first salute as an officer from their fathers, both non-commissioned officers in the Defence Forces. Usually this honour is reserved for the Master at Arms.
Philip Molloy, from Cobh, Co Cork, also received his first salute from his father, Chief Petty Officer Thomas Molloy.
BQMS Nolan, who is on his 11th tour of duty with the Defence Forces having previously served in Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, returns to Syria in the next few days but says he has no fear about completing the mission.
The level of risk peacekeeping troops are exposed to has increased since the civil war in Syria moved into the demilitarised zone.
"It's a typical UN mission and we were well-trained before we went out so it's not as big a problem as sometimes you might think, even though it has got more intense over the past few months," said BQMS Nolan.
"It's a good battalion. Some of them are very young so it's a great experience for them to further their careers.
"That's their job and what they signed up for, but they're well-protected and were well-trained before they went out."
Defence Minister Simon Coveney attended the commissioning ceremony accompanied by Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lt Gen Conor O'Boyle.
The minister expressed his confidence in UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt Gen Iqbal Singh Singha, whose order for Filipino peacekeepers to surrender to Syrian rebels following the capture of 43 Fijian peacekeepers was rejected, leading to a call for an investigation into his action.
Asked if he was right to issue the order, Mr Coveney said: "I'm not a soldier. I'm a minister."
Meanwhile, the 10 new cadets who received their presidential commissions also included Thomas Mullaney (Cork), Sean Lenehan (Dublin), Aron Nutley (Monaghan), Stuart Byrne (Wicklow), Michael Cowman (Wexford), Gerard Fannin (Clare) and Best Overall Cadet Ben Crumplin (Cork).