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Irish play a key role in EU disaster exercise

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Lieutenant Tim Cunningham boards a Swedish Air Force C130 Hercules at Uppsala, Sweden

Lieutenant Tim Cunningham boards a Swedish Air Force C130 Hercules at Uppsala, Sweden

Colonel Howard Berney

Colonel Howard Berney

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Lieutenant Tim Cunningham boards a Swedish Air Force C130 Hercules at Uppsala, Sweden

Irish troops are taking part in a final exercise in preparation for their key role in the EU Nordic battlegroup, which will be placed on standby in the new year for rapid deployment in a humanitarian or military crisis.

Exercise Joint Action focuses on the assessment of the 2,400-strong battlegroup, which includes 180 personnel from the Defence Forces, in a real-life scenario.

For the exercise, the battlegroup has been deployed to a fictional country and, in co-operation with civil and non-governmental organisations are tasked with containing and providing assistance in a severe humanitarian disaster.

In reality, it is taking place in tough conditions in southern Sweden and because they are responsible for the battlegroup's most important asset, the Irish have been in the field since Sunday last and will be there until Thursday.

The Irish are in charge of gathering intelligence involving reconnaissance and sniper detachments, and feeding that information into intelligence processing and analysis cells.

Deputy force commander of the battlegroup, Col Howard Berney told the Irish Independent last night: "We are capable of being on site in a crisis area within 10 days of an EU decision to deploy.

"During the exercise the battlegroup has proven more than capable of fulfilling this.

"It would make you proud to be Irish when you look at the professionalism, expertise and attitude of our troops", said Col Berney, who is from Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

"This is the fourth time that the Irish have been involved in a battlegroup since 2008 and we will be on standby from January to June.

The Irish soldiers can be tasked to any conflict region within a 6,000-mile radius of Brussels.

Irish Independent