30 November 2012 - Ceremonial Stand Down Parade of the 4th Western Brigade.

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Seán McCann attended the stand down parade of the 4thWestern Brigade at 2 pm in Custume Barracks, Athlone today.

Over 500 troops were on parade and all units based in the West were represented in the ceremony which marked the dis-establishment of the Brigade. As part of the wider re-organisation of the Defence Forces members of 4th Western Brigade will now become part of the new Defence Forces two brigade structure for the Army with Headquarters located in Dublin and Cork.

Commenting on the parade Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Mc Cann said:

"Today is a poignant day here in Athlone as we witness the Fourth Western Brigade march into history, however it is also a day of great pride. Pride in the achievements of the many men and women that have loyally served the state since 1922 here in the West, both at home and overseas, with distinction and valour."

During the parade, the last General Officer Commanding the 4th Western Brigade, Brigadier General Gerald Aherne, reviewed the parade stopping to talk to members of the Brigade during his inspection. Following a brief address by General Aherne, the Brigade Colours (flag), which date from the foundation of the State, were marched through the ranks of the troops on parade as the band of the 4th Western Brigade played before being formally "cased" in a leather holder and then marched from the parade. At the conclusion of the parade the 4th Cavalry Squadron ceremoniously drove past a reviewing stand in their armoured vehicles before re-assembling on the square and then performing the traditional Cavalry Corps "lights out" salute as each vehicle extinguished their lights in sequence.

In his address to the troops on parade, General Gerald Aherne said:

"I urge all to remain strong in your commitment. Knowing you as I do, this will not challenge you, the process of change is trying, but we are made of strong stuff....... the West is and always will be awake. At this moment it is perhaps making a tactical withdrawal, we live in hope of better days ahead. "

Whilst the parade marks the formal stand down of the Western Brigade, the vast majority of the operational troops of the Brigade will remain based between Athlone, Galway and Donegal. The garrisons which remain in situ in the West have supported the people of the region since the foundation of the State and the formation of the then Western Command in 1922.  Historically, the troops of the Western Command led the efforts to aid the local farming communities during the Bad Harvest of 1947 and in the Great Shannon Floods of 1954 by offering logistical support and manpower. This support continued right through the years and was mirrored in the assistance that was provided during recent forest fires in the north west in the last two summers and the severe weather that marked the winters of 2009 and 2010.

Troops from the 4 Western Brigade were at the forefront of the Defence Forces’ proud Service Overseas. Approximately 150 men from the Western Command joined the 689 who travelled on 27 July 1960 to the Congo with the first complete Irish Contingent to see service overseas the 32 Infantry Battalion ONUC. This Battalion was led by Lt Col Buckley who later went on to become General Officer Commanding the Western Command in the early 70’s. This service has included sending troops and leading missions to Lebanon, Kosovo, East Timor, Liberia and Chad to name but a few. This tradition of Overseas Service has continued to this very day with the 107th Infantry Battalion, the majority of whose troops were drawn from the 4th Western Brigade, departing to serve with UNIFIL in Lebanon on 5 Nov 2012 led by Lt Col Dave Dignam. A small ceremony to mark the dis-establishment of the 4th Western Brigade and other units has also taken place in Lebanon.

Throughout its history, the 4th Western Brigade has been regularly tasked to carry out military and security operations by the State. From the Civil War through the Emergency and beyond, the troops that have served in the Western Brigade have consistently responded to these operational challenges with the greatest of professionalism and dedication. In more recent memory these security tasks peaked with the years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland when it secured the Border and all of its crossings, from West Cavan to North Donegal, over 50% of Ireland's border. Currently members of the 4th Western Brigade continue to undertake routine security operations at a high tempo from cash in transit escorts to participating in larger scale operations such as the recent visits of President Obama and Queen Elizabeth.

Following the current re-organisation of the Defence Forces, the vast majority of men and women serving in the 4th Western Brigade will continue to serve the communities of the West of Ireland. In Athlone the 6th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Engineer Field Company and the newly formed 2nd Artillery Regiment will continue this town’s historic link with the military which has dated from 1697. In Finner Camp, Ballyshannon, the 28th Infantry Battalion will join the Custume Barracks Units as part of the new 2nd Brigade. In Renmore, Galway the 1st Infantry Battalion will become part of the 1st Brigade. In the new organisation these Units will continue their proud 90 year history of serving the people of the West of Ireland as they have since the foundation of the State.

Press Release Date: Friday 30th November 2012

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