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fire in hole Soldiers armed with rifles and machine guns launched a pre-dawn ‘raid’ at famous Poolbeg lighthouse

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Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

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Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

RESIDENTS of Dublin’s south inner city would be forgiven for thinking an invasion was under way early yesterday as dozens of soldiers armed with rifles, grenade-launchers and machine guns launched a pre-dawn ‘raid’ at the Pigeon House near the Poolbeg incinerators.

Using a cover of darkness, two AW-139 military helicopters swept in low from the Air Corps base in Baldonnell in west Dublin as three rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) cruised stealthily up the Liffey from Dún Laoghaire to unload soldiers in full camouflage gear for the ‘Viking’ training exercise.

The exercise was to test young soldiers in what is known as a Military Operations in Urban Terrain, or MOUT, exercise.

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Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Defence forces at Dublin's famous Poolbeg station

Amid dense smoke from smoke bombs, what sounded like real-life gunfire from blank ammunition rang out in the area for several hours yesterday morning as 41 soldiers ranging in age from 21 to 37 took part in the exercise, using what the military terms a “3D battleground in an urban setting”.

The exercise is designed to train army privates from the 2 Brigade Training Centre at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines to move up to the next rank to corporal as part of a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) training course, explained military spokesman Capt Risteard Byrne.

If successful, they could be deployed as peacekeepers in hotspots like Syria where they would go on to lead others in peacekeeping operations overseas, he said.

“A lot of it is about developing leadership skills. They would come in on a boat in pitch darkness as covertly as possible. It was a huge test of the students.

“It’s really to learn how to fight in all environments. Urban environments can be very intense,” he said.

Unlike a rural field or other traditional battlefield, urban settings where soldiers may be deployed in places like the Golan Heights present many challenges and obstacles and “you need to know how to develop tactics and work in an urban setting”, he said.

And to allay any fears from local residents who may be startled by the presence of armed soldiers wearing gas masks, the Defence Forces announced the operation on Twitter and advised local councillors and gardaí about the manoeuvre.

Defence Forces members wearing high-visibility vests were also on stand-by to explain what was happening.

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