OVER 400 people turned out for the Open Day at the James Stephens Military Barracks last Friday with the rain clearing just as people started arriving.
The 3rd Infantry Battalion - which boasts around 500 members - was on full display for two hours in Kilkenny City with an array of weaponry and equipment on show.
There were all sorts of guns to pick up and hold, including sniper rifles, machine guns, pistols. Children were even able to select targets for firing mortars at using the army's tech-fire computer system.
Several times throughout the two hours there were unarmed combat displays and a riot control demonstration where kids got to play the unruly rioters and throw blocks or even kick the soldiers' shields.
Meanwhile over 70 kids got their faces painted.
Also proving popular was the display of the various armoured vehicles which are typically deployed on overseas missions with the Defence Forces in places such as Lebanon and the Golan Heights.
Soldiers' food for when they're away from base for 24-hours were also laid out for visitors and they include high energy drinks, hot chocolate and a chicken sausages and beans and tomato sauce meal.
Among those in attendance were retired Defence Forces soldiers Sgt Martin Murray and retired Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant, Paschal Grace.
They retired from the military in 2009 and 2007 after almost 40 years service – most of which were spent in the James Stephens Barracks and they did overseas tours to the Lebanon.
Paschal was there with his grandchildren, Noah, Aaron, Tadgh and Kyle whom he referred to as “future soldiers”.
When asked about the open day and being in the barracks, Martin said: “It's not new to us but some of the equipment is new. The clothing has improved, it's a more serviceable dress.”
Lieutenant Patrick Toban of the James Stephens Barracks says most people see the barracks but they don't really see what's behind the four walls.
He said: “The army are looking for so many more people that we feel we need to let people in and have a look around and see what we actually do.
“People see the barracks and they don't really see what's behind the four walls. They see us in the vehicles and they're wondering what we're doing. A day like today gives us a chance to show them.”
Ten-year-old Colm Byrne from Kilkenny enjoyed the sniper display and his mother, Una, said: "It's great. This is geared towards kids, giving them a hands on feel."
Among those in attendance was Kilkenny hurling legend, Private Colin Fennelly.
Check out this video showing unarmed combat drills here
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