Career Progression

Cadet Dowling, Cadet School, Military College

Cadet Hopkins in Training

What did you do before joining the Defence Forces?

I graduated from NUI Maynooth with a BA in Finance & Accounting. After graduating, I worked in a small company as their Finance & Administration Officer. I left the accounting behind me and took up a full time role as a rowing coach with Trinity College Dublin before joining.

Why did you join the Defence Forces?

It’s something I always wanted to do. I’m friends with several serving members and I always loved to listen to their day to day work. A challenging environment, outdoors, and working with a lot of different people — it ticked a lot of my boxes.

What preparation did you do for the Cadet Application process?

The Defence Forces Competition Section gave good examples of the initial aptitude tests. I also looked up further examples to help me with them. I organised two separate ‘mock interviews’ with serving Defence Forces members to help ease the nerves before the big day. The Defence Forces website,, also offers all the basic & detailed info about the army that anyone interested should know.

What is the military training like?

Great. Previously, I would have been participated in a lot of sports and my fitness was decent but the military training is a different level of mental robustness. You have to put your class mates first so you can’t be thinking about your own pain a lot of the time, you work hard as a group and there’s great satisfaction after an exercise or session. It’s amazing to see people with a less sporty background completely redevelop themselves in such a short period of time.

What do you enjoy about being in the Army?

It’s a cliché, but every day is different. Trekking over mountains, discovering a new weapon, arms drill, learning about defence and tactics. There’s just so much on our programmes from early in the morning till late at night.

There are days when you get mentally pushed to your limit but having a group of friends to talk to back in your accommodation is a great help.

What has been the highlight of your training?

I love our Navigation exercises. Getting dropped in the Wicklow Mountains and having to make your way from one point to another, stopping off at various way points. Theoretically it’s not against the clock but there’s pride and bragging rights for those who do well!

Lieutenant Marie Carrigy, Troop Commander, 1 Armoured Cavalry Squadron

What is your job?

Troop Commander Tank Troop, 1 Armoured Cavalry Squadron, DFTC

Describe a typical day?

The job is very varied which makes it enjoyable. It can vary from organising training activities for the unit and general unit admin, to taking part in training exercises, weapons training, range practices, physical training, Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) and Aid to the Civil Authority (ACA) tasks.

What are your main responsibilities as an Officer?

My main responsibilities include organising and supervising unit training, taking part in ATCP, ACA and other unit operational tasks, and supervising the daily routine of the unit.

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

Hopefully I will be in the rank of Captain in the Cavalry Corp having completed a couple of overseas trips!

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

In this job you are always learning new skills through both training courses and experience in my designated unit. Improving your own abilities in addition to developing the skills and standards of the troops makes the job very rewarding.

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

I have completed my Cavalry Young Officer Course and driving courses including Nissan, Transit, Truck and Mowag — all skills necessary to the Cavalry Corp. Also I have completed an Infantry Light Support Weapons Course and Physical Training Supervisors Course, which allow me to run unit training activities, and a Tactical Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Course which would benefit me in an overseas environment.

What was your first deployment overseas like?

At the moment I am continuing to train and gain the experience I will need when I get the opportunity to deploy overseas.

Describe a typical tactical exercise you have been on?

For a successful tactical exercise much of the hard work is in the organisation and planning of aspects such as locations to be used, transport, equipment and the troops themselves. When in the exercise area tasks may include giving an Orders session, moving tactically by vehicle or by foot, and completing missions such as Close Target Reconnaissance (CTR), mounted or dismounted Observation Posts (OPs), patrols, assaults and raids.

Captain Brian Kirkpatrick, Inspection Officer, Combined Vehicle Base Workshops

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

I suppose the first and biggest decision was the one to join the Defence Forces in the first place. I had made this decision while still in school and once I was accepted into the Defence Forces as a Cadet I haven’t looked back since.

The Defence Forces offers a wide variety of career options. In my case the degree I chose to undertake in college has had a big effect on my career direction so far. I undertook a degree in Transport Operations and Technology in DIT through the Defence Forces and the selection of this degree while still a cadet steered me in the direction of the Transport and Vehicle Maintenance Corps.

Another was the decision to serve overseas. This was an easy decision to make as it was what I joined the Defence Forces to do. I served with the UN MINURCAT mission in Chad as the Transport Platoon Commander and Battalion Fuel Officer. Overall I found it to be a rewarding experience and allowed me to put a lot of what I had learned on various courses throughout my career to practical use.   

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

There is no particular person who I can say has influenced me in my career direction. In the Defence Forces you meet extremely competent people on a daily basis and many people would have influenced me in passing.

How does your career impact on your personal life?

A job in the Defence Forces is not a typical 9 — 5 job. You can and do work unsociable hours from time to time, sometimes at short notice. To date I have worked two Christmas Days, one New Years Eve, spent almost five months in Chad and plenty of nights away from home on exercises.

How did you get your current job?

I’m currently the Inspection Officer in the Combined Vehicle Base Workshops. I was selected for this appointment as I have a degree in Transport Operations and Technology which covered topics such as workshop management and vehicle technology making it an ideal qualification for the workshops.

Describe a typical day?

There is no typical day in this job, on any given day I could be on exercise,shooting on the range, instructing on courses, sitting on vehicle procurement boards or going on courses on anything from diving to advanced heavy vehicle recovery.

What are your main tasks?

My main tasks are to ensure the efficient running of the workshops and maintain the high standards we have achieved over the years. As part of the workshops staff I act as an advisor on technical transport issues and vehicle recovery to the Director of Transport.

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

I have always been interested in the Defence Forces as a career and joined the FCA to get an insight into military life. I liked the idea that no two days were the same and the fact that every few years your career can take a different direction allowing you to gain experience in a wide variety of areas.

What is your education to date?

I completed my leaving cert in 2001 and joined the Army as a Cadet the following October. On completion of the cadetship I received a HETAC diploma in Military Studies and from 2004 — 2008 I completed a degree in Transport Operations and Technology. I am currently undergoing the application process for a Masters.

What advice would give someone considering a career in the Defence Forces?

If you are considering joining the Defence Forces I’d advise you to talk to someone already serving about their experiences. Personally I think it’s one of the best jobs out there due to its diversity and would recommend it to anyone.

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