Career Progression

Cadet Smith, Air Corps Wings Course

What did you do before starting your Officer Cadetship?

I studied Business and Law in Griffith College Dublin and after graduating I worked in RTE in various production crew roles. However within my class, there are also school leavers, people who have worked in the industry, people with previous flying experience and people who gained trade qualifications. I was fortunate enough to be offered a cadetship on my third attempt of applying and gained invaluable experience on the first two attempts and was ultimately successful on the third. 

Why did you join the Air Corps?

My interest in aviation started while I was in secondary school and it was then that I became aware of the Air Corps. My interest and knowledge of the Air Corps and their various roles grew throughout my time in school and college. In the end, it was the wide variety of aircraft and roles in the Air Corps that made it stand out as the organisation I wanted to be part of.

Why did you join as an Officer Cadet?

A desire for a challenge and my interest in aviation were key factors in applying for an Air Corps cadetship, however these were not the only factors. A career as a commissioned officer in the Defence Forces requires qualities in management and leadership and I believed it would give me opportunities to further develop these skills through training and on the job experience.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t have any preference at the moment as to whether I stay fixed wing or convert to helis. I would like to progress my career in the Defence Forces in both my flying and in my wider managerial roles and responsibilities.

What part of the training did you enjoy the most?

As hiking is one of my hobbies, I enjoyed the navigation exercises we did in the Wicklow Mountains throughout stage 1 of the cadetship. I also found training on various weapons to be very interesting and getting to part-take in shooting competitions as part of a team was one of the highlights. I also enjoyed the numerous exercises which put into practice and tested the theory and skills we had been shown, such as on our survival exercise and during our sea survival training.

What preparation did you do for the Officer Cadet application process?

I used the website and also information from the Air Corps Facebook page to help me prepare for the interview process which followed on from the general aptitude tests. Based on the competencies listed in the competition booklet I prepared examples from my own experiences which could best demonstrate these qualities.

What is the physical training like?

I knew it was going to be challenging and the fitness is a key aspect of military life. The initial three months proved to be intense, however, everyone who joins has already shown a minimum level of fitness and the training is designed is to bring everyone up to the same high level over the course of the training period, culminating in the completion of section field assessment which comprises of two weeks of intensive physical and mental testing on the military tactics you have learned over stage one and two. The satisfaction of completing this challenge gave me great confidence in what I could achieve.

What is the military training like?

Military training was extremely tough, however ultimately very rewarding. All the early mornings and late nights turned me into an extremely fit and more confident individual and during the course of this I have built long lasting friendships in the Army, Navy and Air Corps. We were trained to instructor standard on a number of weapons and studied military tactics from small section level attacks to how armies won and lost battles during our military history block.

What do you enjoy about being in the Defence Forces?

As I’ve outlined from the training, no two days in the cadetship are the same, whether it’s physical training to weapons practice on the ranges or whilst studying the fourteen subjects which make up the Air Corps ground school syllabus. I am now drawing on all the aspects of my training to date as I begin the next challenge of taking the controls of a high performance military aircraft in the shape of the PC-9M.

Lt Barcoe - 101 Squadron,No.1 Operations Wing 

What is your current job?

At the moment I’m currently a squadron pilot serving in 101 Squadron, within No.1 Operations Wing of the Irish Air Corps. 101 Squadron is one of five squadrons within the wing and the primary roles within the squadron are surveillance and airlift. The platform we use to fulfill this role is the Airbus Military Casa CN235-100 maritime patrol aircraft. In addition to this role I’m also the logistics Officer for No.1 operations wing, which is where all the operational fixed wing aircraft are based. Along with a team I’m responsible for the logistical planning  within No.1 Operations Wing.

Describe a typical day?

Thankfully there is no typical day in the Air Corps. Each day can vary greatly depending on what task I’m assigned to at the time. When I’m rostered to fly I will report on duty ninety minutes before our scheduled take-off time, a number of pre-flight tasks need to be carried out starting with a weather brief. The entire crew gets briefed on the weather and we discuss what our tasking is for the flight. The Casa is primarily tasked with maritime security and surveillance. A flight is typically six hours in duration and we patrol Irelands EEZ (Economic Exclusion Zone) which covers an expanse of  1,000,000 We work in coordination with the Irish Naval service, sea fisheries protection agency and customs to make the most efficient use of our time when we’re conducting a maritime patrol. We can patrol an area which may be of interest to one of the agencies in a short space of time. Other regular taskings for the Casa involve air ambulance flights in co-operation with the HSE. I find this role especially rewarding as air ambulance flights may be short notice and time critical. Typically we fly to a number of destinations in the U.K with patients to ensure they can receive suitable medical treatment. The Casa is also tasked with army support missions, which can involve parachute jumping exercises, troop transport and logistics support for overseas missions.

When I’m not flying a typical day can involve anything from flight planning, logistics management or acting as coxswain on the Air Corps patrol RHIB. The RHIB is used to patrol active danger areas during air firing.

What are your main responsibilities as an Officer?

An Officer's primary role in the Air Corps is to manage and be a competent leader to men/women under your command. My role also involves flying, but I would say that my primary role is an Officer, and my secondary role is a pilot. I have similar responsibilities to my counterparts in the Army and Naval service. We’re all leaders within the Defence Forces and with that comes responsibility. There are many different career courses along the way which can differ greatly from a typical day flying an aircraft.

Where do you think you’ll be in ten years time?

At the moment I regularly come across challenges which I may not have seen before, and for me that keeps my interest levels high. It’s hard to say what position i’ll be in ten years time but between now and then I expect to be promoted to the rank of captain and further progress through my career as a pilot officer. I think the Air Corps has a lot to offer across the spectrum of ranks, and regardless of rank, or time in service, individuals can expect to be challenged regularly to put their skills to the test.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

That’s an easy question to answer! Completing a successful air ambulance mission is very rewarding. Although we only play a small part in the long line of doctors, nurses and other medical professions who treat patients it’s nice to know that our role has contributed towards saving lives. I think that’s part of the attraction to the job when individuals initially think about a career in the Air Corps.

What type of training did you complete after commissioning and why did you have to do it?

A lot of family and friends make the assumption that once I was commissioned and because I was a trained pilot I could fly any aircraft. Aircraft are quite diverse and each aircraft type requires an intense training course in order for an individual to become proficient to fly it. Since 2010 I have completed three flying training courses which cover aspects of both a technical and flying nature. I regularly have to complete simulator training for the CASA which tests a pilot on their knowledge of their emergency procedures. This always remains to be a challenge and is invaluable training in keeping a pilot well drilled on what to do in the case of an emergency. I have also completed various other non-aviation related courses such as coxswain powerboat training, logistics management courses and most recently I have completed a level eight degree in DIT in business and aviation management which was co-ordinated by the Air Corps.

Describe a typical tactical exercise you’ve been on?

The Casa is regularly involved in exercises with the Army Ranger Wing and the Naval service. I was involved in a counter terrorism exercise recently based off the south coast of Ireland. The CASA located and positively identify the target vessel and provided a live camera feed from above while commanders coordinated the attack. It’s an ideal platform as it can operate covertly for hours and remain undetected, it can then position overhead the target in a very short space of time and provide close support to the individuals below. 

Capt Odhran Murphy — QFI/QWI Flying Training School

What are the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?

Well obviously the biggest decision was to apply for the Defence Forces in the first place. I had always wanted to learn how to fly, and had a keen interest in the military since I was a child. So applying for a cadetship in the Air Corps was an obvious choice. I did a lot of research into the Air Corps, and found out that it offered exactly what I was looking for: a challenging and rewarding career, with the potential for personal fulfilment and advancement...and of course the opportunity to learn how to fly!

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Initially of course my parents had a huge influence in supporting me in my decision to join the Air Corps. They have always given me consistent support throughout my career. While learning how to fly, of course it was my instructors who had the biggest influence over me, and who showed me the best manner in which to operate as both a pilot and as an Officer. Since qualifying and receiving my commission as an Officer I have encountered many career changing decisions, the biggest of which was whether to fly fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters. I chose fixed wing aircraft, as I was lucky enough to have been offered the opportunity to fly the smaller of the two Government Jets, the Learjet 45, which of course was a huge honour. Since then, I have become a flight instructor and weapons instructor in the Flying Training School, responsible for the training of Air Corps Cadets. Since I moved to the Flying Training School, those who have had the biggest influence on me have been my own students, and my fellow instructors. Aviation, and in particular military aviation, is a continuously developing and advancing discipline. Having the opportunity to work in an organisation as professional as the Defence Forces, allows the opportunity for the forward thinking required in order to stay at the cutting edge of the profession.

How does your career impact on your personal life?

My career to date in the Air Corps has not adversely affected my personal life in any way. I served as a pilot on the Government Jet for two years, which obviously meant spending some time away from home, but never too long to impact on my life outside the Air Corps. I am extremely busy as a Flying Instructor, in my current role however, the impact upon my life outside of the Air Corps has been minimal. External to my military career, I play sports (soccer, cricket, and marathon), I fly classic aircraft for leisure, I operate drone aircraft, have completed two 3rd level degrees at night, and have plenty of time for a normal social life!

How did you get your current job?

My current job is as a Flight Instructor and Weapons Instructor in the Flying Training School (FTS). I have been working here since the end of 2010. It is a job that I have wanted to do since I qualified as a pilot, back in 2007. The Flying Training School is responsible for Basic and Advanced Flying Training within the Air Corps. It is responsible for the training of Cadets (future pilots) and Instructors as well as Air to Ground, and Air to Air Weapons Training. I was selected for Instructor training, following the completion of a two year period of acting as a co-pilot onboard the Learjet 45 aircraft.

Describe a typical day?

Our day here in the Flying Training School starts with a thorough weather briefing each morning at 08:30. This is followed by an emergency brief, which covers one of the many abnormal situations which can occur when flying any aircraft...and of course the actions to be taken in order to rectify the situation! These briefings are attended by all the Instructors in the school, as well as the Cadets who are learning to fly for the first time, and anyone else who is learning how to fly the aeroplane, such as student instructors. The flying schedule begins at 09:00. The courses of training undertaken vary depending on the requirements of each course. For instance, a Cadet learning how to fly for the first time will be thought the basics of flying, from take-off, to level flight, to turning, climbing and descending, and of course the all important landing. Eventually once these skills have been mastered, the Cadet will advance to aerobatic flying, instrument and visual navigation, night flying, and formation flying. Each flight is preceded by a thorough pre-flight briefing, and followed by a full and thorough debrief, which of course points out what was done correctly, and what might have been done a little better! On average, each pilot or student pilot will carry out one to two sorties (flights) per day. Other tasks to be undertaken include lecturing the Cadet pilots, on the many and varied Groundschool subjects which need to be mastered in order to satisfy the theoretical knowledge requirements of the course. The Air Corps cadetship covers the full range of subjects taught on the Airline Transport Pilots’ Licence (ATPL) syllabus, as well as a wide variety of airmanship, leadership, and other military and aviation ground-based theoretical and practical subjects.

What are your main tasks?

My primary task is to teach the Cadet pilots how to safely and accurately fly the PC-9M aircraft, in order to prepare them for future careers as operational pilot Officers within the Air Corps. In doing so, a keen area of focus is the development of leadership and command capability, both in the air and on the ground, as well as the developing of piloting skill and airmanship principles. In addition to this, I am a qualified weapons instructor, which means that I have responsibility for the planning and organising of all fixed-wing air to ground weaponeering in the Air Corps. From time to time, I have the pleasure (and honour) of carrying out ceremonial formation flypasts for large military ceremonies, such as that which takes place on Easter Sunday on O’Connell Street in order to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

What influenced you to choose the Defence Forces as a career?

The Defence Forces offers a continuously challenging and rewarding career from many perspectives. It offers unique opportunities to carry out tasks and jobs that no other organisation can. All its personnel are positively motivated, and continuously encouraged to achieve the highest possible standards, through a professional network of training establishments and continuous professional development programmes, irrespective of the specifics of the day to day job carried out. The opportunity to work in this environment is one that is simply unrivalled, and makes coming to work every morning an exciting prospect.

What is your education to date?

I left school in 2003, having completed the Leaving Cert. I attended UCD for one year before joining the Air Corps as  Cadet in 2004. Since the completion of my cadetship, I have studied for a degree in Mathematics (at evening time, part-time), and a degree in Management and Aeronautical Studies (also at evening time, part-time).

Capt Jay O’Reilly — Operations Officer, 3 Operations Wing

What is your current job?

I am an aircraft commander on the AW-139 helicopter and I’m also employed as the operations officer for the helicopter wing of the Irish Air Corps, 3 Operations Wing. In my role as a pilot I conduct a wide range of operational flights on the AW-139 helicopter including air ambulance, special forces operations, emergency aeromedical flights, and flights in support of civil authorities. I also maintain my skills as a helicopter gunnery instructor and regularly train gunners on the helicopter’s weapon system. In my role as the operations officer, I am tasked with managing the safe operation and deployment of Irish Air Corps helicopters and planning the operational development of the unit.

Describe a typical day?

My typical day depends on whether I am carrying out military or air ambulance flying, whether I’m instructing helicopter gunners, or whether I’m working in the operations office.

When I’m operating as part of the emergency aeromedical service detachment in Athlone, for example, a typical day consists of a morning brief in which we discuss weather, hospital availability and airport status. We remain on call for 12 hours each day, during which we carry out rapid response missions all over the country in support of the HSE and National Ambulance Service. This type of work is both challenging and very rewarding as it affords me the opportunity to really help people in need of emergency medical assistance.

When I’m flying on more traditional military missions, each day brings a different challenge. One day I could be taking part in operations with the Irish Special Forces unit, the Army Ranger Wing, and the next I could be lifting an underslung artillery gun into a firing position in the Glen of Imaal. My career to date has been so varied that I really don’t have a typical day and being constantly challenged by new and different situations has been a very enjoyable part of my job.

What are your main responsibilities as an Officer?

My main responsibilities as an Officer in the Defence Forces are very similar to those of Army and Naval Service Officers. I am expected to be a leader and decision maker, a responsible and reliable person, and to uphold the standards expected of me by the Defence Forces. Although my speciality is flying helicopters, I am expected to carry out many functions similar to those of my colleagues in the Army and Naval Service.

Where do you think you will be in ten years time?

If I was asked this question ten years ago I wouldn’t have been able to predict where I am at this stage of my career and I think the same would be true if I tried to answer this question now. I have always wanted to be a pilot and I hope to be lucky enough to continue my career in aviation with the Air Corps. If the next ten years is as enjoyable and interesting as the last, then there’s no way I can answer this question but I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens!

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

There have been a large number of standout moments during my career so far but one that springs to mind was having the opportunity to take part in fire fighting operations in Donegal in 2011.

Following an extended period of dry weather, large wild fires broke out around County Donegal and the Air Corps was tasked with assisting local efforts to fight the fires. I spent three days flying long hours around Donegal in an AW139 helicopter, dropping 1000 litres of water at a time from a ‘bambi bucket’ attached to the underside of the helicopter. The flying required was the most challenging I’ve ever had to do in my career so far but was within my capabilities due to the excellent training I received from the Air Corps.

Over the course of the three day operation, more than a quarter of a million litres of water was dropped and untold damage was avoided due to the combined efforts of the emergency services personnel and local volunteers involved. I was honoured to have been a part of that operation and it is something I will always remember.

What type of training have you completed after commissioning and why did you have to do it?

Since the completion of my cadetship in 2002, I have had the opportunity to undertake numerous aviation and military courses.

I have completed flight training on three types of fixed wing aircraft and three types of helicopters, as well as more advanced training in skills such as night flying (with and without night vision goggles), advanced tactical flying, display flying, and winching operations, to name a few.

Some of the military courses I’ve undertaken include intelligence and security training, weapons instruction, training in the safe selection and operation of landing sites for helicopters, and Arabic language training.

Some of the courses I have taken have been required as part of my career progression while other courses I chose as I had an interest in those particular areas. This combination has allowed me to shape my career path as it developed and to expand my knowledge and skills in areas that I was interested in but that also positively contributed to my personal development.

What was your first deployment overseas like?

My first deployment was as part of the Tactical Close Air Support cell with the EUFOR and UN mission to Chad in Africa. My role was to coordinate all air support for the Irish battalion and involved taking part in regular long range patrols throughout our area of operations. This meant heading out into potentially hostile territory for a week at a time with a company of troops to protect local civilians and refugees. The conditions were tough and temperatures regularly rose above 45 degrees; when combined with your personal weapon, body armour, supplies, radios, and everything else you needed to carry, meant it was pretty sweaty work! I saw some amazing sights and met some amazing people on my deployment. I loved every minute of my overseas tour and I consider myself privileged to have had that experience. 

Describe a typical tactical exercise you have been on?

I recently took part in a helicopter gunnery exercise in the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow. I was one of the instructors teaching new personnel how to operate the weapon system on the AW139 helicopter in a dynamic tactical scenario. Operating as part of a helicopter crew, I made sure that new gunners could operate the weapon system safely and effectively by day and night (using night vision goggles) in a variety of tactical scenarios. 

The exercise culminated in a combined night shoot utilising the newly trained helicopter gunners firing general purpose machine guns from the AW139 helicopter in support of Army Ranger Wing snipers firing from the smaller EC-135 helicopter. The training was intense and 3 Ops Wing was able to exercise and develop the air firing capability in a realistic tactical night time environment.


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