Defence Forces cadets involved in near-miss shooting incident

Trainees escape injury after being exposed to live fire at Kilworth Camp, Co Cork

Cadets at Kilworth Camp, Cork, were found to be ‘in an unsafe location’ during live fire.

Cadets at Kilworth Camp, Cork, were found to be ‘in an unsafe location’ during live fire.

 

A group of Defence Forces cadets were offered counselling after live rounds from assault rifles were fired in their direction by mistake at the end of a training exercise. No one was injured in the near-miss incident.

PDFORRA, which represents soldiers, sailors and aircrew, expressed concern about the incident and said safety management was an issue at present in the Defence Forces.

The cadets had just undergone live fire tactical training at Kilworth Camp, Cork, which involved advancing through a large area with pop-up targets to shoot at. After the exercise was completed, they left the training area, known as the movement box.

However, when they returned shortly afterwards to clean it up, shots were fired in the area by two other military personnel.

One of them was an Irish member of the Defence Forces and the other was a visiting soldier from abroad who was observing the training exercise last month.

When some of those present realised live ammunition, from Steyr assault rifles, was being fired in the movement box while the group of approximately 10 cadets was in it, shouts went up to halt firing.

Some of the cadets were shocked and visibly upset, with two said to have been in tears. The Defence Forces has confirmed the personnel involved were offered counselling.

The movement box is declared “live” when a live firing exercise is under way, but that status is lifted when firing has been concluded or there is a break.

Tactical training

During the recent incident, confusion emerged among the personnel present over the “live” status of the area.

In response to queries, the Defence Forces confirmed a “training incident” had occurred during a recent live fire tactical training (LFTT) exercise in the training area in Kilworth.

Personnel were found to be “in an unsafe location” during the live fire. However, a statement added “the personnel were outside the arc of fire and safety angle”.

It said “immediate action drills” were carried out, with the exercise stopped and the area made safe.

The Defence Forces said a report on the incident was submitted on the day, four weeks ago. An investigation was launched and a follow-up report submitted within 24 hours “with subsequent lessons learned”.

It is understood one of the changes to have come from the incident is that movement boxes will retain their live status even during breaks in firing, such as for meals.

“These lessons learned have been incorporated into our LFTT procedures in order to mitigate the risk of such incidents happening in future,” the Defence Forces said.

“The Defence Forces personnel involved in the incident were provided with experienced critical incident stress debrief on the day with a follow-up one-to-one counsellor debrief provided in the days following.”

PDFORRA general secretary at Gerry Rooney said the incident needed further investigation to “ensure it could not happen again”.

“I have no doubts vacancies are adding to the challenge of safety and risk management in the Defence Forces,” he said.

The organisation representing commissioned officers, Raco, said while it could not comment on a specific case it was concerned at the number of vacancies across the Defence Forces.

“We have been raising concerns generally about the negative impact of vacancies on safety and risk assessment,” said Raco deputy general secretary Comdt Derek Priestley.