The state of the Defence Forces

 

Sir, – As a former company quartermaster sergeant who served for 21 years in the Defence Forces in Ireland and overseas, I disagree with your letter writer A Jones (October 8th) that national service is the answer to the current personnel shortages.

In your news report in the same edition, it was stressed that the Defence Forces were trying to address the area of shortage of specialists. National service would not address this problem. Specialists in the Army serve in corps such as engineers, medics, ordnance (who deal with weapons, ammunition and explosives), and signals. National service recruits would be assigned to corps such as infantry, cavalry and artillery.

There is also the issue of the ethos of the Defence Forces. In my platoon in the Curragh in 1969, the first six weeks were a period of intense physical and psychological pressure intended to make the recruit come to terms with the nature of the engagement to which they had committed themselves. Only then did the more specialist training take place, and there was a high dropout rate.

Simply stated, the Army did not want people who did not want to be there.

I doubt very much if this ethos has changed. – Yours, etc,

TOM BRACE,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – In your edition of October 6th , the Department of Defence took issue with your newspaper over the accuracy of the numbers of Defence Forces personnel quoted as being in receipt of the working family payment (WFP).

I should be astounded that the department is quibbling on minor matters of detail but, unfortunately, I am not.

In a week when military veterans have taken to the streets in protest at poor pay and conditions for serving personnel, when our Naval Service fleet was reported to be unable to put to sea due to staff shortages and when, most appallingly, the rotation of 120 troops from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was delayed by two weeks due to bureaucratic bungling, at great emotional cost to their families, the normally taciturn department chooses to argue over the numbers on WFP.

The term “crisis” is much overused in debate these days but the above mentioned examples, taken together with the failure to reach establishment numbers, accelerated attrition, critical staffing gaps and the findings of the University of Limerick morale survey, all indicate a serious malaise.

If there is no “crisis” then might I suggest a military term which might serve as an alternative description of the current state of play: FUBAR.

If the Department of Defence needs clarification, I would be happy to provide it. – Yours, etc,

PAUL FARRELL,

(Capt retired),

Kildare.