More women in Defence Forces urged
A mother of four who served in Afghanistan with the Irish Army is leading the battle to get more women in the Defence Forces.
Commandant Jayne Lawlor admits it was tougher leaving her two children and two stepchildren at home with husband Derek than being one of seven Irish troops based at Nato headquarters in Kabul.
But the 38-year-old claims the military is making progress in getting females to enlist and progress through the ranks while having a family.
"Having just returned from a six-month trip to Afghanistan, leaving four children at home with my husband, I fully realise how difficult it is with children," she said.
"Personally, I think it is the partners at home who should be given the medal.
"I had previously served in Lebanon, Liberia and Kosovo without children and a family does make it much more difficult for all parties."
Comdt Lawlor - gender, equality and diversity officer - admitted the physical training for the job is hard, but she rejected any perceptions that the military is not suitable for women.
Despite being office based in Afghanistan, the solider - a member of the Cavalry Corps - revealed she was very much part of the action and community in previous oversees missions particularity in Liberia in 2004 and the Lebanon four years earlier.
After Kosovo in 2006 she took a career break to have her children.
Comdt Lawlor revealed recruitment campaigns have been launched through social media, sports clubs and schools to attract more female applicants.
The first women joined the Defence Forces in 1980 and the number has grown to 564 across the army, air corps and navy, 6% of the force.
"We are making progress as we now have three female Lieutenant Colonel in the Defence Forces and also have our first female Sergeant Major which is hugely positive and will also demonstrate to other females that it is possible," she continued.
"In addition, the number of females who are mothers deploying overseas has increased.
"Recent photos of the troops returning from Lebanon showed returning mothers with their children and this is great to see."
The soldier maintained the Defence Forces are committed to increasing the number of women intakes and is working on initiatives to support troops during pregnancy, maternity leave and while being the primary carer at home.
Options being examined include completing long career courses in modules and the sharing of overseas trips.
The aim is to help women to navigate their careers in the Defence Forces and progress to higher ranks.
"The message that we are trying to get out is that the DF is a great career for females and that we are actively trying to improve it even further to make it even more compatible with family life as many people seem to think that the two conflict," she added.