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Ireland Army

The Army provides the land component of the States Defence capabilities. The Army currently provides the deployable military capabilities for overseas peace support, crisis management and humanitarian operations augmented by personnel from the Air Corps and Naval Service. On a day-to-day basis the Army provides a broad range of operational outputs. These include activities in support of An Garda Sochna such as providing cash escorts, prisoner escorts, explosive ordnance disposal and prison security. The Army also undertake tasks in support of the civil authorities such as the provision of assistance in severe weather crises and are an integral part of the States response to many contingencies. The Defence Forces Training Centre (DFTC) and Defence Forces Logistics Base in the Curragh, Co. Kildare, support the training and logistics functions for the entire Defence Force.

Since 2000 the Defence Forces fundamentally reviewed how they prepare and undertake overseas deployments. Preparations for the provision of overseas units are based on the Lead Brigade concept. Nominated Brigades have the responsibility for the provision of a Light Infantry Battalion during its period on standby. This is normally for a period of twelve months, incorporating a six month pre-deployment phase at home followed by a six month deployment phase overseas. While the Lead Brigade concept does not mean that the overseas unit is drawn in its entirety from a home battalion, it is broadly based on a home battalion and has proved to be an effective tool in the preparation and provision of personnel to meet Government commitments to overseas Peace Support operations.

A major re-organisation was initiated in 2011 to encompass a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from three to two. In response to the revised strength ceiling of 9,500, there will be a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces encompassing a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from three to two.

The European Council at Helsinki in December 1999 established the EU Headline Goal, i.e. a capability to deploy within 60 days, and to sustain for at least one year, a Rapid Reaction Force of up to 50-60,000 persons capable of the full range of crisis management tasks (Petersberg Tasks)1. The objective was to achieve this Goal by 2003. Irelands contribution to the Headline Goal consists of an offer of up to 850 members of the Defence Force, (which currently represents more than 10% of the Army), from within the existing commitment of 850 personnel to the United Nations Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS).

While the level of Border operations by the Defence Forces has eased considerably, other static security and escort aid to the civil power (ATCP) operations remain. In the case of significant events the Defence Forces have also been called on to provide Brigade level (2,500) support to the Grdai, e.g. during Irelands presidency of the EU in 2004. This support usually calls for military protection tasks, riot control teams and air and maritime operations.

Ireland participated in the Swedish-led Nordic Battlegroup (NBG) which was on standby from 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2011. Irelands contribution to NBG 2011 was an Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance Group together with support elements and staff posts at NBG Force Headquarter (FHQ) in Enkoping, Sweden. Ireland committed to participating in the Austrian/German Battlegroup, which was on stand-by for the second six months of 2012. The proposed Defence Forces contribution was the same capability commitment as was offered to the Nordic Battlegroup 2011.

During 2011 a range of priority equipment such as a chemical and radiological simulation system, force protection equipment, rifle enhancement and communication equipment was acquired. Transport related acquisitions delivered in 2011 include one heavy recovery vehicle, eight crew cab vehicles, three tactical support vehicles, forty-five ton 4 x 4 patrol vehicles, eight Military Police motorcycles and one Demountable Rack Offload Pickup System (DROP S) compatible Petrol, Oil, and Lubricants (POL ) container. An additional thirty-nine sets of roll over protection systems were delivered in 2011.

The modernisation process in the Defence Organisation identified that the dispersal of personnel over an extended number of locations is a major impediment to essential collective training and imposes increased and unnecessary overheads on the Defence Forces in terms of barrack management, administration, maintenance and security. The consolidation of the Defence Forces formations into a smaller number of locations is a key objective of the White Paper on Defence. The consolidation process is designed to facilitate higher training standards, while also freeing up under-utilised resources and personnel for operational duties.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams provide a unique response capability within the State to deal with EO D incidents. This capability has been developed over many years in operational environments, both at home and overseas which includes the area of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) operations. During 2011, EOD Teams were tasked to deal with a total of 237 incidents throughout the country. This was the highest number of tasks dealt with since 1979.

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