Army unit prepares for deployment to Syria

46th Infantry Group has been training in Glen of Imaal for patrols in Golan Heights

The Defence Forces this afternoon used the Wicklow mountains to put on display some of the training and tools the 46th Infantry Group will be using on deployment in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, next month.

The 130 strong peacekeeping group is being deployed to a UN-controlled ‘area of separation’, in the Golan Heights region on the border of Syria and Israel.

The soldiers will provide medical, technical and engineering support, patrolling the area of separation, checking roads and rough terrain for landmines, hidden bombs, snipers and other threats.

But today under the watchful eyes of company commander Owen McNally and a five-camera, robot bomb dismantler, soldiers in explosion-proof suits patrolled the lanes around Coolmoney Camp, in the Glen of Imaal.


Looking like a character from the movie Star Wars, the low-level, six-wheel robot with eye-like cameras, rolled into position, it extendable probes controlled remotely from a lorry parked a safe distance away.

While the capabilities of the robot were ideal for the area of separation in the Golan Heights, the army explained it is just as useful at home. The bomb disposal unit, or Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team to be more correct, was called out 250 times in 2013 - nearly five times a week on average - to issues which included dealing with 85 viable bombs.

With a bang that shook assembled media, the robot detonated a controlled explosion, the patrol moved safely on, the watching media treading more carefully in its wake.

Further up the hill as “snipers” fired on a patrol, at least five Mowag armoured personnel carriers thundered down the lane.. Suddenly the air was filled with multi-coloured smoke and the sound of gunfire, as the snipers position was identified. As sheep grazed seemingly unperturbed, and a photographer with a telephoto lens stood by, a group from an armoured Mowag ran across the grass and “neutralised” the menace.

Sgt Major Derek Lamb, the senior NCO with the group said while the danger the unit would experience in the Golan Heights was very real, the 127 men and seven women had all been well trained and well briefed about their upcoming tour of duty.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist