THE Irish Naval Service has welcomed 13 new recruits into its ranks, including two Cork natives.
With the sun beaming above Haulbowline Naval Base this afternoon, the families of the newly qualified Ordinary Rates attended a special passing out parade to celebrate Class Orla.
The class, who are aged between 18 and 27, have successfully completed 22 weeks of intensive training in preparation for their new roles and will now continue with branch training before they are posted to the fleet as Able Rates.
Among the class were two Cork recruits: Skibbereen native Cian Coughlan and Midelton native Adam Mahony.
“I always liked the sea, I grew up around fishing boats and coastal rowing,” said Mr Mahony when asked what prompted him to join the service.
The 25-year-old was nervous ahead of today’s ceremony but was also excited to join his brother Andrew as a member of the Defence Forces.
“My ambition is to move up the ranks and I’d like to become an ERA [engine room artificer]. I’ll do my branch training in the engine room after this for six weeks and then it’ll be out to sea, which I’m excited for.”
Lieutenant Commander Mike Brunicardi, who is from Fermoy, said that the recruits will spend their time at sea on a “future fleet”, which could include the two new Inshore Patrol Vessels the State has recently procured.
“Their future careers will be different from what we have nowadays. We’re looking at the future of a 12 ship navy,” Mr Brunicardi said.
Such a fleet was proposed in the recent Commission on the Defence Forces report, which recommended a significant modernisation of the Naval Service in order to bolster defence and retain recruits.
“We are in a hole with recruiting. We have a human resources issue at the moment and we’re trying to solve that,” Mr Brunicardi said.
“These 13 people have committed to the navy. Yes, we do have our problems but we’re building toward the future and so many avenues are now open for them.
“One of the things about the navy is that it’s constant advancements and moving up the leadership ladder. These recruits will have a very solid, sound, career. Today is the first step in their opportunities.”
Trainee schemes and apprenticeships are the backbone of such opportunities, with qualifications in everything from medical to diving training available.
Patrick Gilbert (26) of Co Kerry, a former machine driver in Cork, is aiming to expand his knowledge in carpentry and machinery during his time in the service.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do from a young age," Mr Gilbert said.
"I was earning decent money before but it just wasn’t where I wanted to go. I said to myself one day, ‘I’m not happy with this’, and came here and everything instantly changed for me. It made the grass greener on the other side.”
Today’s ceremony was also attended by a representative from Multiple Sclerosis Ireland so that the recruits could present the charity with a cheque for over €3,000 following a fundraising walk they completed on the Waterford Greenway.
Flag Officer Commodore Michael Malone spoke to the recruits following the presentation.
“Recruit training is both physically and mentally demanding. I would like to commend you all,” Commodore Malone said. “This is only the beginning of a very exciting career.”