Published on July 31st, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
New Air Corps Cadets commissioned as recruitment promised to maintain agreed strength
On Friday 29th July, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence, Mr Paul Kehoe T.D, accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellet, attended the Commissioning Ceremony of new officers, at the Air Corps Headquarters in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
The occasion marked a very important and proud day for the nine members of the 32nd Air Corps Cadet Class. For Anthony Candon, Paul Chaloner, Colm Dowling, Jamie Bray, Niall Dungan, Tadhg Firman, Christopher Jevens, Colm Keena and Joseph Ward, it represented the successful completion of over two and a half years of intensive military and flying training, which saw them awarded with their Military Pilots Wings and Presidential Commissions.
On the 23rd September 2013, the members of this Cadet Class joined the 90th Army Cadet Class in the Curragh, where they completed basic military and leadership training. On completion of this module, the class moved to Casement Aerodrome and attended pilot ground school, undergoing over 750 hours of instruction on 15 diverse aviation related subjects, ranging from Principles of Flight, to Human Performance and Limitations.
The class have completed over 180 hours of flying training, including advanced aerobatics, aerial tactics and close formation flying, designed to test them, both physically and mentally. During the flying phase of the course, the nine students have, between them, completed: 1,381 flights, 1,605 flying hours and have landed the Pilatus PC-9(M) aircraft a total of 8,446 times. They sat, cumulatively, through 6,750 hours of Ground school Lectures and passed 135 Ground school Exams.
The successful completion of this training has prepared them to take up appointments as junior leaders and pilots in the Air Corps. In receiving their Presidential Commissions, the new officers took an oath of allegiance, in which they swore to be “faithful to Ireland and loyal to the Constitution” and embarked on life in their new Squadrons, where they will continue to deliver the Air Corps’ mission; Defending Protecting and Support.
Addressing the newly commissioned Air Corps officers, Minister Kehoe said; “As pilot officers of the Air Corps each of you has chosen a very challenging and demanding career – but one that is also very fulfilling and rewarding. I hope that you all will enjoy the many positive and enjoyable aspects of military life. Foremost amongst these are the comradeship, the challenges and the very high level of job satisfaction that comes from leading and serving others.”
Minister Kehoe also acknowledged the contribution the Cadet Class made during this year’s 1916 Centenary Commemorations.
“Some members of 32nd Cadet Class were part of the 100 strong body of Air Corps personnel who marched through Dublin on Easter Sunday. Other members of the Class participated in flypasts on Easter Monday over Cork City and over Enniscorthy, where I had the privilege of seeing them first hand” he noted.
Minister Kehoe also marked out for special mention the staff of the Military College and the Flying Training School, involved in preparing these cadets for officer duty, “for the care and dedication which they have brought to the task of developing and nurturing these young people for their future careers.”
Prior to the Commissioning Ceremony, there was a short aerobatics display by the instructors of the Flight Training School, which provided some excellent opportunities to photograph the PC-9s in mid-flight, together with the cadet class. For some of the cadets, it was also about following in other family members footsteps. Jamie Bray’s brother Alan, for example, was previously commissioned in the 24th Air Corps Cadet Class and he and younger brother Oisín was there to see Jamie receive his wings and be commissioned. Perhaps Oisín too will follow the family tradition. For another cadet, Christopher Jevens, it was more poignant experience, as David his older brother, died after a training accident involving PC-9 ‘265’, which crashed near Cornamona, Co Galway, on 12th October 2009. Congratulations to Chris and his parents Donal and Liz and we wish him, his partner Rachel and baby daughter Robyn, who were at the ceremony, our best wishes.
Today, David is remembered by his fellow cadets, as the ‘The Cadet Jevens Memorial Trophy’, is awarded to the student who achieved the highest standard in the ground school syllabus. The class recipient was Cadet Tadhg Firman, who also received the ‘The Commandant D.K Johnston Cup’ for the student who achieved the highest standard in flying during his training.
Air Corps strength
The Government has stated on numerous occasions that is committed to maintaining the ‘stabilised strength’ of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel, comprising of 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service, as stated in the 2015 White Paper on Defence. However, the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, on 30th June 2016, the latest date for which details are available, was 9,085, comprising 7,278 Army, 724 Air Corps and 1,083 Naval Service. So clearly, in spite of the Government’s intention, that ongoing recruitment campaigns will strive to maintain the serving strength at or close to this figure, it is not doing so. This is in spite of the fact that 241 general service recruits were inducted in 2016 up to mid-June, with a further 150 having completed their recruit training in 2016, following induction in the fourth quarter of 2015. This is because in 2015 alone, 76 officers and 491 enlisted ranks retired or were discharged across the three services. In addition, up to 31st May 2016, a further 34 officers and 193 enlisted ranks have retired, or were discharged. The situation in relation to the Air Corps is shown in the following table.
We last reviewed these figures in a piece posted on the 3rd February, and as can be seen in the table, the number of personnel in the Air Corps declined by a further 32, leaving it some 162 personnel, or 18.3%, short of its establishment. This compares to 3.2% for the Army and just 1% for the Naval Service. In addition, nine Air Corps personnel are serving overseas, in what are essentially Army appointments.
That the Air Corps should have the lowest strength of the three services should not come as a surprise, since the Air Corps General Service Recruits, are drawn from General Service recruitment campaigns for the Army “as required”, while the Naval Service conduct their own General Service recruitment.
Further Air Corps recruitment promised
In the Dáil on the 19th July, Minister Kehoe again repeated the mantra that the manpower requirement of the Defence Forces “is monitored on an ongoing basis in accordance with the operational requirements of each of the three services”. He accepted that there is significant turnover of personnel in the Permanent Defence Force, and therefore targeted recruitment has been and is currently taking place, so as to maintain the agreed strength levels.
He added that a new General Service recruitment campaign for the Army was launched on 13th April 2016 and Air Corps General Service Recruits, would be drawn from future panels as required. The Defence Forces plan to induct just over 600 general service personnel to the Permanent Defence Force in 2016 and a further 850 personnel in 2017.
Direct Entry Competitions are also to be held as required from which specialist appointments are filled and it is proposed to conduct a recruitment competition for 25 Trainee Military Aircraft Technicians in 2016.
In addition, the intake of Cadets into the Permanent Defence Force is normally carried out on an annual basis and the 2016 Cadetship campaign is currently underway. It is planned to induct at least ten Cadets from this competition into the Air Corps.
Nevertheless given that there are currently 68 cadets across the three services, a number of apprentices and recruits in training, a special establishment of around 500 should be authorised, so that the establishment number of 9,500 trained personal, can be achieved.