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Ireland - Reserve Defence Force (RDF)

The Defence Forces consist of a Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and a Reserve Defence Force (RDF). The former is a standing force and provides the primary capabilities for military operations at home and military peace support operations abroad. The RDF provides a contingent conventional military capability to augment and assist the PDF in situations where such additional capabilities are required.

The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) consists of the First Line Reserve, the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. The RDF contributes to Irelands defence capability by providing a capacity to augment the PDF in the event of a major crisis. The Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve undertake training in preparation to assist the Permanent Defence Force, when required. Following the completion of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in 2011, the Government decided to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. In response to the revised strength ceiling of 9,500, a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces, including the Reserve Defence Force, was initiated.

The 2000 White Paper proposed fundamental changes for the RDF. Para 5.1 defines the need build a newly-focused RDF based on the strengths of the existing arrangements but which provides for future needs through a radical new approach. The new and revitalised Reserve was to be organised and equipped on a similar basis to the PDF with a view to developing the interoperability necessary to train and conduct operations jointly.

The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Board (RDFRIB) was convened in November 2000 and consulted widely with all stakeholders. The Minister approved the implementation plan in principle, and the plan was formally launched in July 2004. The establishment was reduced to a Non-Integrated strength of 9,292 personnel for the Army Reserve and a strength of 400 personnel for the Naval Service Reserve. The White Paper also provided for a new Integrated reserve to be drawn from the non-integrated force. RDFRIB recommended that it should comprise some 2,656 personnel. The total Army Reserve would therefore comprise 11,948 and the Naval Reserve 400, in all some 12,348 personnel (5.5.2). Forty-seven (47) units were effectively reduced to twentyseven (27). This downsizing took place while raising the training standards and increasing the outputs through the harnessing and harmonising of training assets in the PDF and RDF.

Para 5.5.1 of the White Paper defines the main role of the new Reserve Defence Force in peacetime: In peacetime the main function of the RDF should be to train and prepare for these contingency roles. This has been implemented through the development of a strategic training plan for the RDF and the inclusion of this plan in the Annual Training Directive (Para 5.8.4). The training sets out targets for all units, provides for assessment of training, and focuses on developing individual skills and unit capability.

The following are significant achievements by 2007:

  • The new organisation of the non-integrated RDF was established on Oct 1st 2005;
  • Four (4) RDF Lt-Cols have been appointed;
  • A program of standardisation of RDF dress and equipment (with the PDF) is under way. All RDF personnel are issued with the Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) Battle Dress, and the Steyr AUG Rifle has become the standard issue weapon to the reserve. Infantry Battalions & Company sized units are being equipped with the same weapons as the PDF;
  • A system of unit affiliation with the PDF has been introduced;
  • The proposals for the introduction and establishment of the integrated army reserve were being progressed and the pilot phase commenced early in 2007;
  • A study of the First Line Reserve and proposals for its future wase finalised in the context of the integrated project;
  • The Chief of Staffs Annual Plan for the Defence Forces provides strategic direction with the training strategy captured in the Annual Training Directive. Syllabi have been reviewed and standards defined. These innovations will enhance Force Capability and lead towards the development of interoperability with the PDF in some areas.
An important recommendation in the White Paper was that members of the Reserve should have the opportunity to serve on overseas peace support operations. This recommendation is being progressed in the context of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan and policies to support the selection of suitably qualified Reserve personnel for overseas service are being developed over the lifetime of the plan.

The Army Reserve is the land component of the Reserve Defence Forces. It is the second line reserve of the Army. It has a current establishment of 9,292 personnel of all ranks. The Army Reserve is divided into 3 territorial Brigade areas, as follows, for operational and administrative reasons.

  • 1 Southern Brigade, comprising the province of Munster, as well as the counties of Kilkenny, Wexford, Carlow and Laois.
  • 2 Eastern Brigade, comprising the counties of Wicklow, Kildare, Dublin, Meath, Louth and Monaghan.
  • 4 Western Brigade, comprising the province of Connaught, as well as the counties of Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Cavan and Donegal.
Each Brigade area has an Army Reserve element, into which the various Infantry and supporting arms units are integrated. In addition to the three territorial Brigade areas, the Defence Forces also maintains the Defence Forces Training Centre (DFTC) at the Curragh Camp in which the Reserve Defence Forces Training Authority is based.

The Naval Service Reserve (NSR) trains men and women to supplement and aid the Naval Service. Naval reservists carry out paid annual training on board Naval Service ships, which are on operational patrols in Irish territorial water or are tasked with foreign visits. Naval reservists are trained in many aspects of nautical and military training. Training includes motorboat handling, sail training, navigation, marine communications, weapons training, fire fighting and sea survival. The NSR also carry out land based security duties at the Naval Base on Haulbowline Island, Cork. These duties are carried out at weekends and the reservists who carry them out are paid the standard Permanent Defence Force allowances for these duties.

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