With NATO support, a specialised course at the Ordnance School of the Irish Defence Forces teaches commanders how to end a terrorist attack with minimal casualties.

Marauding terrorist attacks can take many forms: from the complex assaults in Brussels and Paris to the single shooter attack on tourists in Sousse, Tunisia, to the use of vehicles and knives. NATO say that due to the dynamic nature of such attacks, it has proven difficult to prepare security forces, including first responders, to deal with these situations.

“One very important lesson we have learnt over the last number of years, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, is that improving people’s situational awareness helps mitigate the effects of the terrorist attacks.”

The Ordnance School in County Kildare conducted the first Commanders’ Counter Marauding Terrorist Attack (C-MTA) course in November 2015. Building on its extensive experience in international efforts to counter improvised explosive devices (C-IED), the School had already delivered model courses to share expertise in this area with civilian and military personnel from EU and NATO member states as well as NATO partner countries.

NATO say in a press release:

“The C-MTA course concept was a natural progression of these efforts and also built on the analysis and examination of both the United Kingdom’s Marauding Terrorist Firearms attack programme and the United States’ Active Shooter programme.

The C-MTA course focused on three central aspects:

1. Using the C-IED construct as a blueprint to foster interaction among different entities (including police units, Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, and Special Forces, etc.) and to develop operational tools and tactical methods as well as strategic direction.

2. Leveraging the C-IED network, developed over many years, which brings together the ideal range of security forces, government agencies, emergency services, academics and subject-matter experts.

3. Using lessons identified from terrorist attacks in the military operational environment to enhance the responses of civilian and military actors dealing with terrorist attacks in our countries.

Lastly, the aim of the course from the outset was not to offer a single system but rather to provide international students with a range of options. It is up to each organisation to decide if the knowledge imparted to students and trainees is suitable for use in their respective countries.

NATO recognised the importance of this course from its inception by providing funding through NATO’s Voluntary National Contribution Fund (VNCF), which had also previously supported the School’s C-IED courses.”

Captain Alan Kearney is a serving officer within the Irish Defence Forces with 30 years’ service. He has extensive experience both at home and abroad in C-IED and has worked alongside Ordnance School Commandant Lt Col Ray Lane in developing the wider international C-IED effort since 2008. He said here:

“Designed to reduce the risk of responders being killed, a Command Level Advanced Situational Awareness Training module has been introduced into the November 2017 course. It adapts the successful US Marine Corps Combat Hunter programme to a marauding terrorist environment. Boeing Defence will provide situational awareness analysis focused in the ‘right of bang’ environment familiar to proponents of C-IED (that is, training leaders to deal with a dynamic terrorist event after it has begun and is underway). Boeing has essentially added a scientific component to experiential learning.

Overall, the 2017 course will build on the success of the first two iterations. The Ordnance School will provide input on countering and defending against IEDs at command level, as well as managing and directing the course. Diversity in both instructors and students promises to provide for a challenging and dynamic output.

The inclusion of the military in every effort to develop a sound C-MTA response plan is a key enabler for success in this endeavour. Many military theatres of operation have proved to be enormously challenging, resulting in expertise that does not exist in any civilian agencies. No single state entity has the ability, skills or resources to respond to these attacks on its own. The terrorists that have undertaken these kinds of attacks in our homelands thus far have had minimal, if any, military training and have been lightly armed or utilised available resources such as vehicles and knives – and yet they tax our capacities immensely.

Our experience from operational theatres, coupled with a thorough understanding developed by experienced military operators, points towards the possibility of more complex attacks in our homelands further down the road. So, we cannot afford to be complacent. The military has the experience and knowledge required to prepare and work with all actors to meet this developing threat. Lessons learned and capabilities developed from this course – which involves students from emergency services, private sector and other state agencies – could be replicated at a national level.”


  1. Interesting but MPS Counter Terrorist Command and UKSF have plenty of experience in this field and don’t need teaching by the IDF!


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