Irish troops on exercises in Sweden
Irish troops preparing for their role in the new year in the EU Nordic battlegroup are currently being put through their paces in an intensive training exercise in Sweden.
The aim of the exercise, codenamed Joint Action 2010, is to test the battlegroup's operational capability in the event of a deployment during the first half of next year.
The Defence Forces are contributing 153 personnel to the battlegroup and they will be joined by troops from Sweden, Estonia, Norway and Finland.
The exercise began last week in the Skovde and Hagshult areas of Sweden and will end today.
It followed an earlier exercise in Skovde in October and one at Kilworth, Co Cork, in September.
A key element of the Irish contingent is the 105-member ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target, Acquisition and Reconnaissance) unit, which will play a crucial role if the battlegroup is deployed to any global "hotspot" during its six months on standby.
The battlegroup can be sent in within 10 days to tackle an escalating crisis or humanitarian disaster.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen, who visited the troops with Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieut General Sean McCann, said afterwards: "Ireland's participation in EU battlegroups is a tangible means of showing our support for the EU as a provider of high quality peacekeepers to United Nations mandated operations."
The force commander of the Nordic battlegroup, Swedish brigadier general Jan Stefan Andersson, paid tribute to the professionalism of the Irish troops and said he had served with them previously in Bosnia and Lebanon.