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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



16 December 2016

2016 has been an amazing and exceptionally busy year for 2 R IRISH, and the activity we have conducted typifies the variety of today’s Army Reserve.The Battalion is in a very healthy position and, due to our current over-manning which is underpinned by strong and sustainable recruiting from across Northern Ireland, we expect to be allowed to grow further.  This success is testament to the efforts of our recruiters, the continued desire for military service in Northern Ireland, the support from RFCA, and the opportunities that continue to be grasped by our soldiers.

This year the Battalion has delivered against all the core outputs that Defence has demanded, and the reputation of the Battalion within the Army Reserve has never been higher.  Our pairing with the 1
st Battalion is seen as the model for the rest of the Army.

Delivering Contingent Capability

The core function of the British Army is to be able to provide personnel for operations.  We have deployed, or prepared, some 66 soldiers for operations this year.   The desire to volunteer, mobilise and deploy on operations remains as strong as ever within 2 R IRISH, and our soldiers have served on Op TOSCA in Cyprus, Op ORBITAL in Ukraine, and Op TORAL in Afghanistan.  As 2016 concludes, a Platoon of Reserves from 2 R IRISH are ready to mobilise for operations to Afghanistan with 1 R IRISH.  After they mobilise in January, they will complete collective training with 1 R IRISH, before deploying to Kabul in March.  There are not many Reserve Units that can match this commitment.

More broadly in 2016 the Battalion has provided over 390 Reservists to activity in 10 different countries.  Highlights of which include the Mortar Platoon deploying to Warcop on Ex SHAMROCK STRIKE (with 1 R IRISH) to conduct Live Firing; some 100 soldiers from C Company deploying on an Overseas training Exercise in Cyprus - Exercise LION STAR; and a Battalion team entered into Exercise CAMBRIAN PATROL in Wales in October.  The patrol achieved a silver medal which is a superb achievement from a young and relatively inexperienced team.  

Marksmanship remains one of the core skills of the Infantry and 2 R IRISH have continued to press hard to retain this skill.  Over the summer, the Battalion entered a team into both the 1st Division Operational Shooting Competition (coming 2nd), and the Army Reserve Operational Shooting Competition at Bisley (coming 3rd).  Three of the Battalion are in this year’s Army Reserve ‘Top 50’ firers, and represent the Army Reserve in international competitions. 

Adventure Training retains an important part in the life of any military soldier.  2 R IRISH have conducted two significant Adventure Training expeditions this year.  The first expedition was to Mont Blanc in the Alps in August, where 25 soldiers conducted ice climbing during Ex SHAMROCK GLACIER.  The second was to Morocco in April, during which four members of 2 R IRISH climbed one of the highest mountains on the African continent during Ex TOUBKAL FINN.

But it is not all about pure military skills for the battalion; sport continues to play a vital part of military life.   The Battalion entered a team into the Infantry Skiing Championships, the team were the only Army Reserve Unit to place in the Infantry finals.   Whilst our Orienteering Team took victory at the Infantry Orienteering Championships at Sandhurst, beating off challenges from Regular and Reserve units alike. 

Overseas Engagement

Defence Engagement is the second core output of Defence, and 2 R IRISH is the Army’s lead forLand engagement in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.  We were heavily committed in Ukraine in 2015, with the Commanding Officer and Adjutant deployed on Op ORBITAL for six months, overseeing the rotation of 2 R IRISH training teams into Ukraine.  This year we have maintained a continuitypost in the Operational HQ in Kyiv.  In June 2 R IRISH also deployed a mentoring team to support Exercise RAPID TRIDENT, a US-led, Ukrainian-hosted, multi-national exercise which was designed to train and validate Ukrainian forces to conduct Peace Enforcement and Peace Support Operations in a NATO context; another superb opportunity and a high profile task that was picked up and reported in the UK’s broadsheets.

The Battalion has made significant gains in our relations with the Moldovan Ministry of Defence.  Following a few visits to the country this year, we had a young officer join a US-Moldovan exercise in North Carolina where he was able to better understand the US’s engagement plan and how we might fit in.  The culmination of the year was our Moldova-focused Study Dayin October, which was extremely well-supported.  In attendance were a Moldovan delegation heading by their Deputy Chief of Defence, the Defence Attaché to Moldova, and representation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,the UK Ministry of Defence, the US National Guard from North Carolina (the US lead forDefence Engagement in Moldova), and the US Office of Defence Cooperation.  In the immediate days following the study day, the Moldovan delegation visited Ex CAMBRIAN PATROL, and we now have an agreed programme to work together for next year’s competition.  This program will now see R IRISH reserves deploying into Moldova in 2017 to train and mentor their CAMBRIAN team. 

Our pipes and drums have also been heavily involved in Defence Engagement, and were tasked in support of both a Moldovan military parade in August (which marked Moldova’s 25 years of independence) and the ‘National Day of Romania’ Annual Parade in December in Bucharest.  They have already been asked to provide support to the UK's Ambassador to Belarus early next year. 

Delivering at Home

The Battalion has been exceptionally fortunate to be in the position to reflect on a remarkable period of our Regimental and National history.  Last October, the Battalion took part in the commemorations to the fallen of the 10
thIrish Division at Gallipoli, providing a small guard of honour and a colour party for the ceremony to rededicate the memorial to the Irish Division at Green Hill Cemetery, in the presence of HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and the Irish Government.

On 1st July this year, we were in France (and Belfast) alongside 1 R IRISH in a Regimental effort to commemorate SOMME 100, and the actions of the 36
thUlster Division.  Many will have seen the extensive footage on the BBC and UTV.

Finally, and to complete the full house of WW1 Divisions drawn from Ireland, in September this year, standing shoulder to shoulder alongside members of the Irish Defence Force, we supported the commemorations of the 100
th anniversary of the 16th Irish Division’s actions at Guillemont.  The parade was attended by DáilÉireann ministers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the UK and Irish Ambassadors to France, and it provided us an excellent opportunity to progress North-South military relations.

We had just enough time to get back home for the (excellent) ‘Salute to the Somme’ Beating Retreat in Enniskillen. In our ancestral home, we reflected in particular on the sacrifice and valour at the Somme.  With the First Minister in attendance, we witnessed the Number One Band of The Irish Defence Force on parade with The Band and Massed Bugles, Pipes and Drums of The Royal Irish Regiment (a first in living memory for those that witnessed it).The Pipes and Drums have consistently represented the Regiment and the Army Reserve at numerous events in Northern Ireland this year, most significantly the Belfast Tattoo in September. 

Although unrelated to commemoration, a small team were fortunate to conduct a Battlefield Study to Monte Cassino, where, under the watchful eye of the author Richard Docherty, we followed in the footsteps of the ‘Irish Brigade’.  A new generation were educated into the leadership of Brig Pat Scott and Lt Col BalaBredin, and the attendees paid their respects to the Irishmen who lost their life in Italy.   As we look forward to 2017, we are already planning the Regimental input to the Messines centenary in 2017. 

Looking forward to 2017, and beyond the mobilisation of our Afghanistan-bound cohort, we will shift our focus to a Battalion Live Firing Concentration next summer,followed the year after by Exercise WESSEX STORM in support of 1 R IRISH.More widely, and building up Junior Leadership within the Battalion, we continue to build on our mountaineering expertise.  Next year we plan to have teams which will summit Mont Blancand Mount Toubkhal; both of which will be challenging, arduous, light infantry-relevant training as well as being fantastic opportunities for our young Reserve
The Battalion continues to be dynamic and is right at the fore of the Army Reserve, both in Northern Ireland and more broadly across the Army. Our reputation is superb, and the opportunities are huge