Brazilian Army Trains Foreign Soldiers in the Amazon
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo December 06, 2016Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, hosted the International Seminar on Jungle Operations from November 30th to December 2nd. The event brought together representatives from Brazil’s and other countries’ armed forces as well as from Brazilian and foreign companies that develop military technology. Sponsored by the Amazon Military Command, the training was not the only international event held this year to promote the exchange of experiences and lessons on military jungle operations. Over the course of 33 days, from September 12th to October 14th, 21 service members from 15 nations, including the United States and Canada, faced the challenges of completing missions in one of Earth's most unique environments – the Amazon forest. The training was made possible by the first International Jungle Operations Exercise (EIOS, per its Portuguese acronym), and was conducted by the Jungle Warfare Training Center (CIGS, per its Portuguese acronym), a unit that is under the Amazon Military Command. CIGS instructors participated in the International Jungle Operations Exercise. “We will be there to monitor the material that is covered and later review what can be adapted and applied to our CIGS courses and exercises,” stated Captain Charles Araújo, EIOS coordinator. International exercise trains jungle combatants Foreign soldiers who completed the first International Jungle Operations Exercise will add to the title “jungle combatant” to their résumés. “The jungle is frightening because of its size. The climate is extremely hot and humid and represents a big challenge to foreigners. They are also fearful of diseases,” said Lieutenant Colonel Alexandre Amorim de Andrade, head of CIGS's Doctrine and Research Division. “Above all else, however, is the fear of the unknown because they don't know how to find their position in the jungle or how to take advantage of it for food and water,” concluded Lt. Col. Amorim, who was in charge of a portion of the EIOS activities. In order to equip foreign soldiers with the skills needed to overcome their fears and operate well in forest conditions, the exercise was organized into three phases: life in the jungle, special skills, and operations. “Folks understand that this is an instructional series with information that is to be provided to the soldier. First, you have to learn how to survive in the jungle. Later, you have to learn the skills needed to operate there. Finally, you have to know how to use those skills in tactical situations within that environment,” Captain Araújo explained. The phases were developed on CIGS’s grounds, which covers an area of 1,152 square kilometers –twice the size of the urban area of Manaus– and seven training bases located in the jungle and equipped with housing, kitchens, and presentation halls. From learning to doing Captain Gustavo da Silva, a CIGS public relations officer, explained that the opening phase of the international exercise dealt with forest living – learning to get water, making a fire, setting a trap for hunting, identifying edible plants setting up a shelter for sleeping and protection against poisonous animals. The second phase focused on learning how to move over the ground, in the water, and by air. “What sets CIGS training apart is the training on jungle orienteering. In general, foreigners are accustomed to using GPS as the only way of orienting themselves during their movements. In the Amazon, however, people cannot depend on that technology,” Captain Araújo said. He explained that electronic devices in the forest frequently malfunction – even the latest models – because of rain and the dense vegetation, which block the reception of data sent by satellite. That is why Brazilians opt for another device that is considered antiquated by foreigners – the compass. “Even though they consider this device obsolete for use in long-distance deployments, they become convinced over the length of this course that a compass is necessary,” Captain Araújo added. “In addition to that, we teach techniques for walking in the jungle and moving by river. This is easy for our folks because we know the terrain.” Among the river skills taught by EIOS is utilitarian swimming, which teaches soldiers to cross a body of water while carrying heavy equipment – backpack, weapons, ammunition, etc. The Fishbone technique – a way to use ropes as a guide when crossing a body of water is also taught during the course. In the exercise, trainees practiced the technique at night. Air travel is essential for missions conducted in thick vegetation. That’s why aircraft disembarkation training was included in the course outline, said Captain Araújo. “Here, logistics, the transport of troops, the rescuing of injured persons – in sum, all these various activities or nearly all of them – depend on an airplane or a ship, with an airplane being much more agile.” The foreign soldiers spent several days practicing the techniques of fast rope, rappelling, and helocasting for disembarking from helicopters. Using the fast-rope technique, the soldier can make a faster descent from the aircraft. Rappelling is useful when there are fewer time restrictions for disembarking. “With rappelling, folks can descend from much higher altitudes. Here, we use rappelling a lot for rescuing injured persons in the jungle and for checking landmarks during border patrols,” said Capt. Charles. In helocasting, the soldier jumps from the helicopter directly into the river. “We do this when we don't have a landing site or any place to touch down on the rivers edge. With this technique, the soldier falls into the water, swims, and then continues by land to complete the mission,” the EIOS coordinator said. In the second phase of training, the foreign service members practiced live firing using I A2 rifles, a new weapon received by the Jungle Warfare Training Center. I A2 rifles are lighter, allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition without increasing weight, said Capt. Charles. Applying their knowledge The third stage consisted of the operations themselves, divided into two parts. Initially, the trainees attended class in the study hall to learn the operational planning methodology used by the Brazilian Army. Afterward, participants received instructions about the hypothetical situation for their operation. “The macro scenario was a transnational operation involving Brazil and a neighboring country, in which the trainees would need to conduct coordinated actions on the border against an enemy group that had invaded Brazilian territory. In the Army, we call this kind of mission an operation against irregular forces,” Capt. Charles explained. Within this general context, three operations were devised with specific missions that became increasingly complex: conducting an ambush patrol against the enemy group, interdicting a cache of contraband supplies hidden in the forest, and capturing the other group’s leadership using different military resources. The foreign trainees planned each operation. They divided themselves between command roles and other more operational roles. The course coordinator found their performance quite good. “The foreigners were able to get through the true-to-life, forest-simulation situation quite well, and they were able to deal with the features of the environment they were in, which is the most important thing. It’s not easy to face the challenges of communication, intense heat, insane humidity, endless rain, and the uncertainties of one’s surroundings,” Capt. Charles added. Exchange of knowledge and experiences The founding decree of the International Jungle Operations Exercise sets forth as goals to provide jungle combat training to soldiers of partner nations, as well as to use the exercise to exchange knowledge and experiences between participants and the Brazilian Army. It happened spontaneously over the course of the exercises and through interactions between the CIGS team and participants. Doctrinal engagement also played a role. These activities took place at midday, always on the day prior to the start of one of the three phases of the exercise. During these activities, EIOS instructors presented a particular situation for trainees to solve in accordance with their country’s military doctrine. Each person was given time to speak while the others could react and ask questions. “Afterwards, it was our turn to demonstrate how Brazilians solve the same situations that were presented,” said Lt. Col. Amorim, who led the doctrinal engagement. “We had the opportunity to share different experiences between the armies and to make contact with doctrines from all around the world,” said Lt. Col. Amorim, who added that the learning that was done in those moments of exchange was systematized into reports and discussed with the CIGS team. “It”s possible that some experiences may be assimilated into, and implemented by, our Jungle Operations Course and also that they may be presented to the Joint Staff of the Brazilian Army as a way of improving military doctrine on land,” Lt. Col. Amorim concluded. Jungle Operations Course and CIGS The Jungle Warfare Training Center is an Army unit under the Amazon Military Command headquartered in Manaus. CIGS was established in 1964. Two years later, it conducted its first Jungle Operations Course, which was geared toward Brazilian military members. “Six thousand sixty-three service members have already gone through these courses – men and women alike. The goal is to train military service members who will be serving in the northern part of the country, in order for them to be able to spread the knowledge they have acquired to other service members in the jungle units where they will be working,” stated Captain Luis Gustavo, a CIGS public relations officer. As time passed, CIGS's course garnered international fame, and foreign militaries began taking notice. An opportunity for them to participate was then opened up. “Four hundred ninety foreigners have been trained in the Jungle Operations Courses, in addition to the 21 who went through EIOS this year,” explained Captain Luis Gustavo. But the International Jungle Operations Exercise is an innovation for 2016. This is the first time that CIGS has presented a course specifically geared toward foreigners and conducted in English from start to finish. Next year, 55 foreign service members are expected to attend the training.