Over 50 Cork soldiers will be spending their Christmas deployed overseas with the largest number in South Lebanon.
From their bases abroad, Defence Force members shared seasons greetings and Christmas cheer with friends and family back home thanks to the magic of the mobile phone.
There are currently 587 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas on behalf of the people of Ireland.
The Irish Defence Forces has the longest unbroken record of overseas service with the United Nations of any country in the world since first deploying to a United Nations' mission in 1958.
The largest Defence Forces deployment overseas is with the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), where 345 Irish soldiers currently serve.
The second-largest deployment for the Defence Forces is with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, Syria, where 138 Irish soldiers currently serve.
The Irish infantry group provides UNDOF's Force Reserve Company which acts as the mission's quick reaction force. The current unit is the 62nd Infantry Group rotated into the mission area in October 2020 and the lead unit is 27th Infantry Battalion from Dundalk. Irish staff officers also serve in UNDOF HQ where Brigadier General Maureen O’Brien has held the appointment of Deputy Force Commander since September 2019.
Members of the unit will not receive leave while deployed due to Covid-19.
The Defence Forces has a smaller number of soldiers deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The Defence Forces contribution to this mission includes staff officers in Force HQ in Bamako and an Army Ranger Wing (ARW) team with the German Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force in the east of the country. Also deployed to Mali are 20 Irish soldiers who serve with European Union Training Mission (EUTM) Mali, delivering education and training to the Malian Armed Forces.
The Defence Forces also has a number of soldiers deployed to missions such as EUFOR in Bosnia, KFOR in Kosovo, as well as staff officers and observers serving in Congo and Western Sahara.
The Defence Forces currently has three personnel (2 x Naval Service, 1 x Air Corps) deployed to the Operational HQ of the EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFORMED) Operation 'Irini' (Greek for 'peace') in Rome. The operation’s core task is the implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya through the use of aerial, satellite, and maritime assets. One if its secondary tasks is to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks.