Saturday, July 30, 2016

'Cholera in Kilcullen' during military exercise

A 'cholera outbreak' in Kilcullen was an element of a recent exercise carried out by the United Nations Training School Ireland, writes Brian Byrne.

The course at UNTSI — located at the Curragh Training Camp — was geared to military and humanitarian personnel serving overseas in peacekeeping roles, on the subject of Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) in conflict or emergency zones. Participants included military from Nigeria and Argentina as well as Irish Defence Forces members.

A key element of such CIMIC units is to assess infrastructure, social and cultural issues in their area, and to work with the local communities to try and limit the effects on the civilian population of military activities. CIMIC personnel also have to identify and negotiate with local civil, ethnic and religious leaders in areas where they are deployed. In natural disasters, similar skills are needed when military are drafted in to help recover the situation.

"Irish peacekeepers have developed a lot of this kind of experience," says Lt Col Adrian O Murchu, OC of UNTSI. "What we're doing with this course is formalising all of what we have learned during our peacekeeping roles down the decades."

As part of the recent exercises, students on the course were required to visit Kilcullen, Donard and Blessington and establish contact with 'key leaders' to make assessments of the towns, as they would have to do in their Middle East and African peacekeeping locations.

The International Civil-Military Relations Course was devised by and directed by Capt Deirdre Carbery from Naas. It centres on a mythical but true-to-life post-colonial country called 'Carana', where a peacekeeping force is trying to negotiate a sustainable resolution to years of civil ethnic-based conflict. Locations in mid-Kildare and west Wicklow represented communities and groups in the conflict, and the students had to do ‘real-life’ assessments and negotiations, as well as organise a visit from a UN representative.

Among the Irish participants was Captain Lisa McMahon from Kilcullen, pictured above delivering a set of Operational Orders during the exercise.

Your editor had the opportunity to sit in on part of the course, and found it fascinating. A major feature on ‘Exercise Carana’ will be appearing from me in an upcoming edition of the Kildare Nationalist.