In Pictures: Mental and physical tests of the Defence Forces Gaisce Challenge

Group of young people embark on survival skills challenge at which they learn life-saving strategies such as how nature can be used to conceal and camouflage, and how to light fires in the wild

Gaisce – The President’s Award participants at the annual Gaisce Defence Forces Challenge. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Camouflage paint at the ready, hardy participants in the Defence Forces Gaisce Challenge were tested mentally and physically in the challenging outdoor environment of Carnagh Range, Co Roscommon, over four days and three nights this week.

The specially selected group of 15-to-17-year-olds were brought across Lough Rea in a rigid hulled inflatable boat(RHIB), before embarking on a survival skills tutorial where they learned life-saving strategies such as how nature itself can be used to conceal and camouflage, and how to light a fire outside using minimal equipment.

The 30 young people from all over Ireland toughed it out in the wild in pursuit of Silver and Bronze Awards, learning endurance techniques from experienced Defence Forces personnel.

Gaisce Bronze and Silver Award participants are taught about camouflage and concealment. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Getting stuck in with camouflage paint. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Participants learn how to light a fire using minimum equipment in a survival scenario. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
From a spark to a flame. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Sgt Massimo Caschera puts participants through their paces with survival, evasion, resistance, escape (SERE) training, and a demonstration on shelter construction. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

As our pictures show, they knocked plenty of fun out of the self-development programme as well. By the end of it they were tired but happy – and not an electronic device in sight.

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Young people find passion and potential in Gaisce - The President's AwardOpens in new window ]

Gaisce – The President’s Award was established in 1985 to mark the United Nations’ International Youth Year, while the Defence Forces has been involved in development and implementation of the Defence Forces Gaisce Challenge for more than 30 years.

Participants cross Lough Rea in a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB). Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Thirty young people from all over Ireland toughed it out for the challenge. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The Defence Forces has been involved in the development and implementation of the Defence Forces Gaisce Challenge for more than 30 years. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist