The Defence Forces Ireland Medical Corps was honoured to host the 45th COMEDS Plenary meeting in Dublin Castle from the 13th to 17th of June 2016. This was the first occasion on which a Plenary session had been held in Ireland, and the meeting was attended by 90 delegates representing 34 NATO and Partner nations. Also in attendance were representatives from the NATO command structures and various bodies within NATO, as well as COMEDS Working Groups, the Military Medical Centre of Excellence, and the EUMS.
At the Welcome Reception in the Officers’ Mess McKee Barracks, the delegates, along with their spouses/partners and the industry representatives, were welcomed by the Director Medical Branch, Col Gerald Kerr. Col Kerr expressed the hope that all would enjoy their time in Dublin, and offered his best wishes for a fruitful and productive meeting. The evening presented an opportunity for all the delegates to acquaint themselves with new colleagues, as well as reacquainting themselves with old friends, and it set the tone for the week to be one of good comradeship, communication and cooperation.
The Plenary itself was chaired by the COMEDS Chairman, Maj Gen Jean-Robert Bernier (CAN), and this was Maj Gen Bernier’s first COMEDS Plenary as Chairman. The Opening Address was delivered by Maj Gen Kevin Cotter, the Defence Forces Ireland Deputy Chief-of-Staff (Support). Maj Gen Cotter acknowledged the critical importance of the work undertaken by COMEDS, as well as the role that this has played in the development of Defence Forces Ireland medical policy and procedures. He also highlighted Ireland’s contribution to COMEDS through its involvement, along with other Partner Nations.
Outside of the working sessions of the Plenary, the Defence Forces Ireland Medical Corps organised a spouses/partners programme, as well as a team-building afternoon for all delegates during the week, with the culmination of the week’s social programme being the Gala Dinner held in the historic surroundings of Dublin Castle on the evening of the last day of the working sessions. As well as the delegates, their spouses/ partners and the industry representatives, the dinner was attended by the aforementioned DCOS (Sp), other members of the General Staff, and Defence Forces Ireland Senior Medical Officers. Guests were entertained by musicians from the Defence Forces School of Music before dinner and there were guided tours of the State Apartments, including the magnificent St Patrick’s Hall where the banquet was held for the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 2011. There was also a surprise performance by a Defence Forces Piper during the meal with a toast by Maj Gen Bernier and Col Kerr.
The presence of industry stands and demonstrations during the week proved to be a valuable part of the week’s programme. Although these stands and demonstrations were separate to the COMEDS agenda, the organisers had ensured a high level of interaction with the industry representatives with the delegates attending the stands during the coffee breaks and with demonstrations running during the lunchtime periods.