Amazon Military Command Trains Troops to Defend the Forest
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo December 22, 2016The Military Command of the Amazon’s (CMA, per its Portuguese acronym) year of military training culminated with more than 1,500 men and women participating in Operation Machifaro III from November 14th to 18th. Machifaro is a province in the Amazon that was the site of a resistance by the local indigenous group against the Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The operation sought to reclaim their fighting spirit for defending Brazilian territory. “Operation Machifaro is being conducted within the context of external defense; that is to say, in the context of using military power against another state,” said Major General Antonio Manoel de Barros, commander of the CMA Operations Center. Created in 2014, this is the third annual edition of the operation, and the first time that it has had an urban center — Manaus, the capital city of the state of Amazonas — as its field of action. The change took place so that participants would employ the tactics of urban combat. Another innovation to the 2016 edition of Operation Machifaro was the cyber warfare exercise, in which a team of soldiers played the role of hackers. The inclusion of cyber training follows a National Defense Strategy directive that defines the cyber sector as strategic for Brazilian defense, alongside the nuclear and space sectors. The operation also was held in the municipalities of Manacapuru and Iranduba, in the greater metropolitan area of Manaus. Advanced training The more than 1,500 military participants in Operation Machifaro hailed from three CMA units headquartered in three different states of the Amazon region: Amazonas, Roraima, and Rondônia. A team from the Brazilian Army's Cyber Defense Center (CDCiber, per its Portuguese designation), located in Brasília, also participated in the event. The CMA units included the 16th Jungle Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Tefé, Amazonas state; the 17th Jungle Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondônia; and units from the 1st Jungle Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima. “Operation Machifaro is an advanced training activity, because it involves units from the upper echelons of the military command — the so-called brigades — as opposed to basic training, which involves the smaller units, starting with the platoons,” explained Maj. Gen. Barros. He said that Operation Machifaro III required an investment of more than $445,000. The deployment of personnel from distant places, as well as of resources such as howitzers, speedboats, helicopters, and weapons, were the first hurdle that the operation implementation center had to overcome. “The poor conditions, with few roads connecting the Amazon’s urban centers, are a reality. That’s why bringing together such a large number of resources, vehicles, and personnel through this system becomes a huge challenge for our folks,” said Major Leriche Albuquerque Barros, who serves in the 16th Jungle Infantry Brigade and participated in Operation Machifaro’s planning, coordination, and implementation. Invader versus the invaded It took one week for participants and resources to be mobilized to the greater metropolitan area of Manaus. “We did two trainings simultaneously, but they applied different strategies for coping with the hypothetical invasion of the Amazon,” Maj. Gen. Barros added. One of the exercises involved soldiers from the 16th Brigade, supported by artillery and cavalry units from the 1st Brigade, and four howitzers. Their objective was to confront an opposing force whose military power was supposedly inferior to that of the Brazilian troops. Another exercise involved troops from the 17th Brigade, which had one howitzer from the 1st Brigade. This group’s hypothetical opponent was a foreign power whose military might was undeniably superior, and against which, the so-called resistance strategy was applied. “The resistance strategy is premised on defending the sovereignty of a territory where the enemy has undeniably superior power,” said Maj. Leriche. “In practice, this leads to applying complex measures aimed at taking away the invader’s will to fight here. For example, our folks see to it that they are unable to sleep, that they have no food, and that their water is polluted.” In order for the scenario to seem as true-to-life as possible, the 16th Brigade played the role of the militarily superior invader, while the 17th Brigade acted as the resistance force. Both units trained on firing with howitzers and heavy mortars using live ammunition, and they had to plan and execute operations against each other. In one case, the 17th Brigade troops had to disassemble a howitzer in order to covertly smuggle it to another area, so as not to call attention to the enemy, who was controlling some of the access routes. “The idea was to test what works and what doesn't, and to learn from the experience,” added Major Leriche. Maj. Gen. Barros provided a positive assessment of the training results. “The resistance strategy is something all our own, created by our Armed Forces. We have no basis for developing the doctrine of resistance fighting. We are just relying on some historical references. That’s why we must constantly perfect the training.” In addition to troop training, Operation Machifaro provided medical and dental care, as well as educational and recreational activities to the people of the Manacapuru municipality.