THIS YEAR began with one 119 troops from the 3rd Infantry Battalion serving on an overseas tour of duty in Lebanon.
The troops returning from overseas in May were joined by a further 71personnel who were redeployed from Clonmel, following the closure of Kickham Barracks. This early year increase in numbers serving in Stephens Barracks laid the foundations for what was to turn out as one of the most successful year in recent times from both a military and sporting prospective.
Each year the Defence Forces hold competitions in various military disciplines between all barracks throughout the country, with the ultimate winner awarded the title of best team or individual in the defence forces for that year in their particular skill. In shooting competitions, 2012 saw the 3rd Infantry Battalion win the General Purpose Machine Gun competition with Corporal Alan Purcell and Private Paul Murphy making up that team. In the competition for best shot with the Steyr rifle, Private Marty Graham was narrowly beaten into second place, a great achievement considering that Marty returned to Ireland on the same day of the competition after representing the Defence Forces at the World Military Parachute Games. The barracks also had national success in parachuting when Private Colin Curran took the national championship in formation and canopy piloting. To round off the year, the 3rd Infantry Battalion had a clean sweep, winning all the Defence Forces Anti-Armour competitions.
Kilkenny is a county that bases much of its sporting achievements around a hurley and sliotar. Stephens Barracks is no different, however the list of sporting success goes far beyond just hurling. That said, on the hurling field in 2012, the barracks won both of the major defence forces hurling competitions, The Chaplains Cup and the Inter Brigade Championship Trophy.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Sean McCann recently honoured five members of the Defence Forces, who were successful in wining All Ireland medals with their respective counties, with a presentation held in Stephens Barracks. The location for the presentation was appropriate considering that four of the five honoured are stationed in Kilkenny. All Ireland hurling winning captain, Private Eoin Larkin and his Kilkenny team mates Private Paul Murphy and Recruit Colin Fennelly, who commenced his career in the Defence Forces the week before winning his second All Ireland senior hurling medal, received presentations. From Tipperary, Private Gerry Walsh from Carrick on Suir was honoured for his success in winning the All Ireland Intermediate hurling title. In keeping with the spread of counties represented in Stephens Barracks, Private Shelley Kehoe also received a presentation form the Chief of Staff in recognition for her All Ireland success with the Wexford senior camogie team.
Moving away from hurling, the barracks soccer team were crowned Defence Forces champions, winning the Cunningham Cup.
Kilkenny is not noted for is achievements in Gaelic Football however the Barracks team were victorious in the Southern Brigade final, loosing to a very strong Curragh team in the Defence Forces Final.
There were many other notable sporting achievements by members of Stephens Barracks. Two local soldiers, Corporal Eddie Clifford and Private Denis Dowd won the Defence Forces handball doubles championship and went on to compete in the World Championships in City West along with Private Kirk Green. Lieutenant James Ledingham from Waterford won a number of events at the Athletics Championships and was awarded the Lt Gen Mulcahy trophy for best athlete in the Defence Forces. Private Dean Brennan also won the long jump title in these championships. And finally from a sporting perspective, three members of the Barracks were on the winning team in the Defence Forces golf championships.
Members of Stephens Barracks have always been conscious of the proud tradition of military service both in Kilkenny itself and throughout the South East of the country. During the year the Barracks hosted an open day for Kilkenny Cultural Week, where members of the community could visit the barracks museum and visitors centre, which proved very pouplar.
Personnel from Stephens Barracks were also involved in a number of Charity events in 2012, most notably when our members stationed in the barracks pulled a seventeen ton Mowag Armoured Personnel Carrier from Enniscorthy to Wexford Town, raising €20,000 for cancer research in the process.
Stephens Barracks makes an annual donation to the Kilkenny Mayors Coal Fund each Christmas and the next endeavour for our soldiers will be to coordinate a number of activities to raise funds for this worthy cause, so if you see our Barrack Choir in action in the city during the run up to Christmas, please feel free to support the Mayors Coal Fund Appeal.
As we look forward to 2013 and wonder how to repeat the success of this year, it is comforting to know that Stephens Barracks and the 3rd Infantry Battalion continues to go from strength to strength. There are currently eighty four new recruits to the Defence Forces in training in Stephens Barracks, most of whom will be stationed in Kilkenny on completion of their training next May. The Defence Forces is currently undergoing an internal reorganisation and Stephens Barracks is certainly seen as a vital installation within the organisation and a strong presence in the south east of the country.