Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Jim Lee


First official overseas visit of new Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM

In his first major event since he up his position as the new Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces with effect from midnight on 28th September, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, visited the 49th Infantry Group in South Lebanon. On his first official overseas visit as Chief of Staff, he met with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Force Commander Major General Luciano Portolano, received an operational briefing from the Officer Commanding the 49th Infantry Group, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Byrne DSM, and visited UN position 6-52 on the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, visits the 49th Infantry Group in South Lebanon

The deployment of the 49th Infantry Group, which is part of the joint Finnish-Irish Battalion, took place on 17th May using Jordan Aviation’s Boeing 767-204(ER), JY-JAG which departed Dublin as the JAV7578, at 14:11, arriving Beirut at 20:56.

The 49th Infantry Group, drawn mainly from Cork, Limerick, and Kildare is the first overseas unit to benefit from the Defence Forces Family Friendly policy regarding overseas service. This initiative allows personnel to serve for a three month tour of duty instead of the, until now, mandatory six months. Six personnel of the 49th Infantry Group availed of this opportunity.

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett COS Irish Defence Forces & Sector West Commander Brigadier General Salvatore Cuoci

During his visit on 12th October, Vice Admiral Mellett presented the UNIFIL peacekeeping medal to 82 personnel of the 49th Infantry Group, who are nearing the end of their first Tour of Duty to South Lebanon. He congratulated the men and women of the Unit stating: “It is a source of pride to me to see the contribution Irish troops have made to the economic and social development of the region by providing a safe and secure environment in a spirit of friendship and close cooperation with the people of South Lebanon. It has not been an easy road but the Irish Defence Forces, on behalf of the Irish people, have stood steadfast in their commitment to peace in Lebanon and the broader Middle East. The memory and legacy of our 47 comrades that gave their lives in the implementation of this mission are always in our thoughts.”

The 47 Irish causalities are part of a total of 308 UN personnel who have lost their lives in this mission. This includes 291 troops, two military observers, eight international and seven local civilian staff.

The 49th Infantry group has the highest percentage of female personnel ever to deploy overseas in one unit. There are 24 female soldiers ranging from Captain to Private serving alongside their male colleagues in a variety of operational roles. This amounts to a total of 14% of the 49th Infantry Group. Recognising this landmark demographic, Vice Admiral Mellett added; “Female participation is an operational force multiplier. The fact the 14% of the 49th Infantry Group is female, in roles ranging from infantry soldiers, medics, engineers and Bomb Disposal Experts is a powerful indication of the operational agility women bring to Peace Support Operations in any given theatre. The Defence Forces is committed to increasing female participation over the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence.”

Ireland and the UN

Ireland has committed 190 personnel to this mission. The Finnish/Irish Battalion is part of the 10,410 military personnel from the following countries, Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and United Republic of Tanzania. There are also 279 international civilian and 590 local civilian staff. The Force Commander and Head of Mission Major General Luciano Portolano assumed command of the mission on 24th July 2014. He was born on 18th September 1960 in Agrigento (Italy) and joined the Italian Army in 1981. He has served in a wide variety of positions in the Italian Army and as part of Italian military missions deployed in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Transition year students from ten schools invited to visit our United Nations Training School in the Curragh

Recognising the importance of our military service with the United Nations, and to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland joining that body, the Defence Forces are inviting transition year students from ten schools to visit the United Nations Training School Ireland, located in the Curragh Camp, Co. Kildare. The visits will take place between Monday 9th and Friday 12th November and the students will have the opportunity to learn about the United Nations and Ireland’s contribution to world peace since 1955. During that week, two schools per day wIll be able to avail of a seminar, where they will learn about the origin and early years of the UN, Ireland’s peacekeeping experiences, the humanitarian and civilian dimensions of the UN and the challenges the UN faces into the future. At the end of the visit the students will receive a certificate of attendance from the School.

Schools are invited to apply and more details are available directly from the United Nations Training School at Those interested in availing of this opportunity should apply no later than Tuesday 27th October, outlining why the school is interested in attending the UN Seminar. Please note that there is a maximum capacity of 50 students per school and schools will be informed on Monday 2nd November on their application.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑