Brazilian General Discusses AMAZONLOG 2017
By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo October 16, 2017
AMAZONLOG 2017 will be the first inter-agency humanitarian-logistics exercise to be held in South America. Scheduled from November 6th-13th, it will take place in the Amazon town of Tabatinga, state of Amazonas, along the three-country border of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. In addition to the participation of the three countries’ armed forces and logistics support from the United States, the exercise will be conducted by the Brazilian Army’s Logistics Command and will have observers from several partner nations.
As the second phase of the planning efforts for the exercise, Brazil hosted a Humanitarian Logistics Symposium (SILOGEM) from September 26th–28th, at the Vasco Vasques Convention Center in Manaus. The first was a tabletop exercise, conducted at the end of August, with the goal of fine-tuning the plans. At SILOGEM Diálogo spoke with Brazilian Army General Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, one of the main organizers of AMAZONLOG 2017. The Brazilian Army’s logistics commander also headed up recent negotiations between Brazil and the United Sates for the Brazilian Army to acquire four C-23 Sherpa aircraft.
Diálogo: What’s your assessment on SILOGEM?
Brazilian Army General Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira: A very positive one, in light of the lectures given and, in particular, the debates. For example, we had a very productive debate on refugees, on logistics control at the border, with ideas, some marvelous suggestions, and a debate in which countries were able to freely express themselves. This was the case of Peru, along with an excellent presentation by the United States. So, I think it was really positive and it exceeded my expectations.
Diálogo: During your opening remarks you said that holding AMAZONLOG in Manaus or Rio de Janeiro would be easy. Tabatinga is going to be hard. Why?
Gen. Theophilo: Because the supporting infrastructure in those big cities, in the state capitals, is very easy. You have electricity, you have purified water, in other words, all of the infrastructure you need for a major event. I want to see this big event put on in a place where you don’t have electricity or potable water, where there are a series of deficiencies, which is the everyday reality of our Amazon, of the nine countries that make up Pan-Amazonia, as in the case of Tabatinga.
Diálogo: What has been the biggest challenge? The Brazilian Army is building a base in Tabatinga, correct?
Gen. Theophilo: In terms of the logistics of getting there, we have been moving supplies since July. They started shipping equipment from Rio de Janeiro in July, such as our campaign hospital module. How would this play out in a real situation? It couldn’t get there the way it’s going, by boat. But, we’re trying out every transport option. We tried cabotage, we tried using a waterway, a railway, a highway, and even the airways. There were even supplies transported by one of the Brazilian Air Force’s Boeing 767s. Now, we’re assessing how these logistics have been done for a situation in which we suddenly had to help another country that suffered a major catastrophe or a huge public calamity.
Diálogo: Speaking of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym), you stated that this exercise wouldn’t have been possible without them. Could you comment on FAB’s participation in AMAZONLOG as well as that of the Brazilian Navy?
Gen. Theophilo: We never imagined this exercise without the Air Force or Navy. We never could have pulled this off on our own. The idea of the Ministry of Defense has always been to conduct a joint exercise with the support of all the agencies to create interoperability. Why? Look, if I were to conduct an exercise like this without FAB support, how am I going to get to certain positions where only it has access? Where there aren’t any roads or where the rivers aren’t navigable? Everything arrives through the runway, the landing field, or by helicopter. At first, the Navy and the Air Force were reticent because this is new to them, and people are a little afraid of new things, of breaking paradigms. So, when we proposed the idea, we had to be certain that it was going to work. In addition to Brazil’s Navy and Air Force, we went abroad to convince the Inter-American Defense Board, the Organization of American States, we went to see the commander of Colombia’s Army, we went to see the commander of Peru’s Army. I visited the U.S. Southern Command; we gave lectures there about AMAZONLOG. Therefore, it has been a major undertaking to make sure this exercise could really be a success.
Diálogo: How are you going to deal with each participating country’s differing laws?
Gen. Theophilo: We have to discuss the border countries’ laws regarding deforestation, indigenous populations, control and trafficking of weapons, wild animals, drugs. So, if we don’t have special legislation for the border region, we’re not going to be able to disrupt the logistics that support the region’s major criminal organizations. The PCC [First Command of the Capital]; the Red Command; the Family of the North; these criminal organizations only exist because these logistics come from the border; and if their logistics aren’t stopped here at the border, we’re going to continue having major problems in the big cities.
Diálogo: But disrupting the modus operandi of these criminal organizations doesn’t depend solely on the Armed Forces…
Gen. Theophilo: No, it’s a joint effort. The Federal Police is in charge of border security, and they rely on the Armed Forces’ support. We don’t have the reach to protect the entire border; no one has the means to provide this kind of protection on their own. For example, I visited the Israel’s border surveillance and monitoring system. Israel is a small country with enemies on all sides. So, they have a perfect surveillance system, which they use to keep watch of every meter of the border. We need to develop technologies that enable us to support that kind of surveillance on the border.
Diálogo: Could you describe how each country is going to participate?
Gen. Theophilo: The idea is for AMAZONLOG to be repeated every year or every other year. For this initial instance, we started with the three countries that share a border with Tabatinga, the site chosen to host AMAZONLOG. And the United States, with its vast experience dealing with major calamities and humanitarian aid, has been overseeing the exercise in terms of experience. The United States even provided a C-130 aircraft, a mobile kitchen, and a water purification station. Peru and Colombia are the countries bordering this area. Therefore, we are seeking to create a little embryo that is able to grow and really become the product of a major brigade of humanitarian operations to respond to public calamities.
Diálogo: What will AMAZONLOG’s legacy be for the Tabatinga region?
Gen. Theophilo: There are two legacies: the tangible and the intangible. The tangible will be all the resources we are investing in logistics; we already have over $ 15.8 million invested in that area of the Upper Solimões River, improving all the river terminals, which are currently river banks. We are transforming them into terminals with piers, better vessels, a warehouse for suppliers, better logistics for these supplies to get there. We’re testing all sorts of vessels. And the intangible is the doctrine we’re creating, implementing, and enhancing every year, so that society sees the utility of humanitarian logistics, especially during large-scale catastrophes.
Diálogo: You were one of the people directly responsible for Brazil’s acquisition of four C-23 Sherpa aircraft from the U.S. Air Force. What is the importance of these aircraft for the Brazilian Army?
Gen. Theophilo: The Brazilian Army has needed fixed-wing aircraft for some time now to undertake missions, especially ones for assisting during disasters. So, there was a proposal from the U.S. FMS division to donate these aircraft to us. But, we tried out several aircraft first, like the Polish twin engine M-28, the Canadian twin engine Twin Otter, and the cost-benefit analysis and technical feasibility swung in favor of the C-23 Bravo Sherpa. These are pre-owned aircraft that have been around for more than 15 years, and, with our plan to modernize them, their useful lives will be extended to 25 years. They have room for 30 paratroopers; can transport 40 tons of cargo; and can take off from and land on any type of runway, even really short 400-meter ones. So, it’s the type of aircraft that is really going to support us in the Amazon.