Amy O'Connor spoke to Private Stack about dropping out of college, his decision to join the army and his plans for the future.
They say that we’re expected to make future career choices at the end of secondary school, when in the preceding months, we had to request permission to use the toilet.
While most of us leave school at 18 and have that one additional, but sometimes crucial year behind us, others complete school without even being old enough to legally buy a scratch card.
In 2009, Dave Stack finished school merely months after his 17th birthday. Transition Year wasn’t an option that he wanted to pursue and so he dived head-first into the last hurdle. His initial CAO choice was Arts, but after missing that by just five points, he ended up in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) studying Mechanical Engineering. After almost two years into the course in CIT, Dave became discouraged and found his inclination to study slowly decrease.
“I didn't like college at all, I just didn't think it was for me from the start. I hated the course and everything to do with it, so I realised I had to leave. I had zero motivation to study or even go in at times,” said Dave.
He didn’t want to rule out education as a whole, and so Dave continued on to complete a year in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa (CSN) in Cork, opting to undertake Sports Studies derived out of a natural love for physical activity. From his time spent in CSN, Dave explained how he found his penchant for exercise and fitness.
Following his stint there, Dave was satisfied with his time spent undertaking academic endeavours and wanted to embark on something different; something he knew he would enjoy, but would also challenge him physically and mentally.
“I knew I wasn't going to go back to college. My mother told me I needed to get a job and I agreed with her for once. After a few weeks had passed, she suggested joining the army because she knew how fitness orientated I was. I said I'd apply anyway and just see how it goes.”
Private Stack (centre of picture)
After completing an online application form and meeting the educational requirements of having sat at least your Junior Cert, Dave was called for a fitness test. This test required him to complete 20 press ups in one minute, 20 sit ups in one minute and also run 2.4 km in under 12 minutes.
After passing this, Dave was called for a psychometric test which examined his English and Maths abilities and then subsequently an interview. Post-interview, he went through a medical test and was successfully enlisted into recruit training.
“I didn't like the fact that I found out I had gotten a place in the army via email. I didn't like the whole idea of patiently waiting. I did enjoy the fitness test though as I knew I would excel in that, which I did. Also the interview was my first ever interview and the nerves were absolutely ridiculous,” said Dave.
And so, Dave became a recruit in the Irish Defence Forces. He trained in rigorous conditions and upon unruly terrain for 17 weeks. In 2013, he had his ‘Passing Out’ ceremony which marked his transition through the ranks from a recruit to a Private.
Private Stack said he, “100 percent made the right choice,” by leaving a course he didn’t enjoy and submitting an application for the Irish Defence Forces. However he highlighted that applying for the army shouldn’t be seen as a way of cutting corners.
“Everyone is different so I can only speak for myself, but everyone can't just up and leave and head for the army. You need the right mind frame to join the defence forces. It's not an easy job and you need to be determined to go through with it and stick it out, so no, I wouldn't say people should follow suit if it doesn't work for them,” said Private Stack.
However, he does note that the army is a good alternative to college if it is something that might interest you. Private Stack explains how you have a full week’s wage for doing something that you enjoy and that you work off of a schedule, so it’s plausible to plan ahead most of the time. He also says that “there is great time off with the army” and if “you want to see a bit of the world” then you can do just that with a position in the defence forces.
Not only has the army given Private Stack a close connection with other recruits and “friends for life” it has also taught him personal lessons and has made him a more compelled and formed individual.
“Discipline is drilled into you from the start. Time keeping is a massive thing as well. I’ve always been good for time keeping, but since I've enlisted, I’m early for everything. Leadership is another quality I gained through the army and my confidence grew massively,” he explained.
“The big one is teamwork. Whether you like these people or not, they are your comrades so you just suck it up and work for each other. I know this is a bit of a cliché but for some of the lads I work with, I would do anything for them, we’re that close,” said Private Stack.
Private Stack is currently upholding the position of infantry soldier at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick, but in just two months’ time, he will be heading overseas to Lebanon in the company of his comrades. His time peacekeeping will be broken down into two segments of three months, in the middle of which, he can return to Ireland to visit family and friends.
“I can't wait to go overseas and experience what it's all about. I’ve never lived away from home in a foreign country for that long, so I don't exactly know what it will entail, but you have to gain experience by actually going and doing it and being hands on.”
Although his passion for working among the ranks of the Irish Defence Force is translucent, Private Stack doesn’t want to eradicate the idea of college. He wants to return to a possible night course and get a degree so that he will, “have something to fall back on.”
With regards to his army career future, he remains dubious. Private Stack says he will continue on until he has completed his five year contract of which he has two years left, or else he will progress on to serve nine years.
“I was lost but I found my place in the army and I love it. I have said to plenty of the lads from my area to join and give it a go, which they did and have never looked back.
“You need to be willing to give it your all through training. You can drag yourself through training moaning, but why would you want that? For me it's all about pushing yourself and getting what you can out of the things in life. So why not go out and get ‘best soldier’ in your recruit platoon?” said Private Stack.