Pte Stephen Buckley from Clara at the 35th Pte Kelly 2-3 Star Platoon passing out ceremony in Custume Barracks, Athlone on Thursday, January 19.

Offaly man celebrates army ‘passing out’ ceremony

An Offaly man was among the 29-strong 35th ‘Pte Kelly’ 2-3 Star Platoon who recently completed their training and celebrated with a military parade in Custume Barracks, Athlone.

The recruits will now join units across the Defence Forces and continue their professional development to progress in their military careers.

The platoon was named after Pte Patrick Kelly from Moate who was killed in 1983 while on active service.

New recruit Stephen Buckley (25) from Clara, but who now lives in Athlone, said his little daughter Ellie motivated him to join the army as he wanted a better life for her.

Speaking about the training, Pte Buckley said it was “tough but good”.

“The whole training was a highlight. It was good meeting all different types of lads from all over the country and (they) end up becoming your best friends.”

He found it difficult to get used to the discipline associated with being in the Defence Forces. The worst part of the course for Pte Buckley was being away from his daughter and time management exercises.

Pte Buckley is the first in his family to go into the army and he is also interested in serving overseas. He is currently stationed at Custume Barracks, Athlone.

Speaking about the joy of being a new recruit, Pte Buckley said: “It feels brilliant. It was a hard six months away from the families. Then getting to put on a show for the families was brilliant."

Platoon Commander Lt Tara Khan congratulated the members of the 35th 2-3 star platoon. “In November 2022, I stood in front of a group of excited and apprehensive young men who were unsure of what to expect in the weeks ahead. They certainly delivered as today I see highly trained, professional, and capable soldiers, prepared for the demands of duty associated with service in the Defence Forces both at home and overseas.”

The late Pte Patrick Kelly's son David Kelly presented the certificates to the recruits.

According to David, it was fitting that his father be honoured by this platoon on the 40th anniversary of his death. He said that Patrick went down in history as the only Irish soldier to be killed at home since the end of the civil war.

Pte Kelly served for 14 years in the army and went on four overseas missions, three in Lebanon and one in Cyprus. Patrick's son David said: “I've been told many times that he was just an excellent soldier. I know he really enjoyed his army career. He got to meet so many fantastic people. He got to travel to different countries around the world.”

Pte Kelly was killed while on active service during a joint Army-Garda operation to find Don Tidley, a supermarket manager who was kidnapped and held captive by members of the Provisional IRA.

He was formally recognised for his bravery in 2012.

“To be present here today is very special. I'm thinking of my father when he passed out. I want to wish the soldiers who've passed out every success for their future army careers,” concluded David.

The platoon successfully completed 16 weeks of recruit training, the initial induction training for the Defence Forces, allowing them to move on to Three Star training.

The event took place in Custume Barracks, Athlone on Thursday, January 19.