Amid the crackle of gunfire, billowing smoke, and explosions from grenades, Irish troops launched a seaborne attack on an enemy stronghold, eventually subduing its defenders.
At 4am during the past three days, soldiers from the 12th Battalion clambered ashore under the cover of darkness from rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and fought their way inch by inch through bunkers, tunnels, and fortified buildings in an urban warfare training exercise in Co Cork.
The simulated battle, involving 150 infantry, took place at Fort Davis, Whitegate, which is the Defence Forces training camp for exercises in a programme called Military Operations in Urban Terrain.
The three-day exercise sharpens troops in particular for overseas missions and it has been revealed that the facilities may be extended at the fort, which was built in 1607 by the British to prevent a foreign incursion, as had happened six years earlier when Spanish landed troops to aid the Irish in the ill-fated Battle of Kinsale.
Commandant Pat O’Connor said the fort is ideal because of its 42-acre size, its warren of buildings, and the fact that it is the only Defence Forces facility which can be attacked from land, sea, or air.
“Up to 3,000 personnel pass through here on an annual basis for this specific type of training,” he said. “It’s ideal because it’s like a labyrinth.
“We always looking to improve and develop these facilities which allows training for the Army, Air Corps, and Naval Service.”
The exercise at Fort Davis finished yesterday and involved troops fighting their way up three levels of defences within the formidable structure, which was designed to protect Cork harbour.
It is one of several forts which the British built to protect what was, during time of war, probably the most strategically important harbour in the British empire.
This isn’t lost on the troops who file through it, as history surrounds them with every step.
It is also regularly used by the Irish special forces, the Rangers, who last week won the international sniper competition at Fort Benning, Georgia — the first time that anyone other than the Americans had won it.
The fort is also being consistently used by Disaster Response Team Ireland and other external agencies.
In addition, it is also being used by the Defences Forces to train personnel from “major countries” who send military experts to training camps specifically designed to deal with countering IEDs (improvised explosive devices) which have claimed many troops’ lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“These courses are organised by our ordnance school, which is based in the Curragh, and it is a highly sought-after course by other countries,” said Comdt O’Connor.
The ordnance school has earned a worldwide reputation.
“We also hold a big annual exercise there with the cadet school and because the terrain it tests our young soldiers physical strength, stamina as well as testing their leadership skills,” said Comdt O’Connor.
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