More than 200 army personnel have taken part in international exercise
More than 200 Defence Forces personnel have taken part in a multi-national peace support exercise involving six countries.
The desk-top exercise, codenamed Viking, bolsters Ireland's policy of increased military co-operation with partner nations to tackle international humanitarian crises, ranging from genocide to civil war.
Visiting the Irish site for the exercise at Custume barracks in Athlone yesterday, Deputy Chief of Staff (operations), Major General Kieran Brennan said: "Ireland brings a huge depth of experience and knowledge to these exercises, having the longest unbroken record of peacekeeping service of any country in the world.
"The increasing complexity of modern peace support operations means we must continuously learn lessons from ongoing missions and research while working better with partners, diplomatic, military, NGO or police," General Brennan added.
The first Viking exercise took place in 1999 and Ireland has participated since 2001, with Viking becoming the largest of its type in the world on the last occasion in 2014.
A total of 2,400 personnel participated yesterday at the six sites in Ireland, Sweden Serbia, Bulgaria, Brazil and Finland under the Partnership for Peace banner.
They included representatives from 24 countries and 33 organisations.
The 200-strong team at Athlone were backed by 11 officers from six other countries, while 120 civilian personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Garda, NGOs and academia also took part.
An additional 12 Defence Forces personnel were based at the Land, Air and Maritime headquarters in Sweden.
Minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe, who also visited Custume barracks with Chief of Staff Mark Mellett, said: "Exercise Viking demonstrates the benefit of international co-operations.
"By working together with other countries, the Defence Forces can assist in conflict situations, as illustrated by today's exercise", Mr Kehoe said.
The exercise used the geography of Scandinavia, renamed as a fictional region, North Friendly Seas.
They tackled a scenario in a conflict torn country, called Bogaland, which had emerged from civil war and plunged into a humanitarian nightmare involving human rights abuse, poverty, fear of genocide and dependant on outside aid.
After a failed military offensive, an United Nations peace support operation was established and had started to stabilise the country.
Problems examined in Viking included refugees, returnees and internally displaced people, security reform, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, cyber defence, prevention of sexual violence and mass migration.