Brazilian Army Major General Alcides Valeriano de Faria Junior serves as the deputy commanding general for Interoperability at U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH). This is the second time that a general officer from a partner nation holds this position. Only four countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru) participate in this rotation, which began in 2017 with Chilean Army Major General Edmundo Villarroel. ARSOUTH is one of U.S. Southern Command’s military components, the joint combatant command that coordinates U.S. strategic military interests for South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Maj. Gen. Alcides gave the following interview to Diálogo a few months before handing over his duties to his successor, a Colombian Army general.
Diálogo: What are your main functions as deputy commander for Interoperability at U.S. Army South?
Brazilian Army Major General Alcides Valeriano de Faria Junior: To support the efforts of U.S. Army South and U.S. Southern Command in developing a multinational response to humanitarian assistance needs, to facilitate and enhance interoperability between the United States and partner nations, in support of ARSOUTH’s mission and lines of effort, primarily for humanitarian aid and disaster support, as well as for multilateral joint operations and exercises.
Diálogo: In your opinion, what are the requirements to select an officer for your position?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: I believe that in addition to a military career, there are some important aspects such as teamwork, knowledge of the language, and being accustomed to working in a multinational environment, which helps a lot. Personally, I think one must be open to new ideas and understanding different ways of problem-solving, without pre-established solutions. I would like to highlight that each country is free to appoint officers for this role, considering, for instance, the position description and, of course, the position and the professional experience of the service member.
Diálogo: Why is it important for a general officer from a partner nation to hold this position?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: It’s important to give a general officer the opportunity to participate in the creative process and development of an activity from its inception, so the officer can provide input on the event, based on regional experience. I refer to the way in which a certain country or army fulfills their missions, which can be a filter or cultural component. In addition, a general officer can open doors and establish contacts at higher rank levels, as well as expedite internal procedures. This can only be achieved by someone effectively integrated into the organization, such as U.S. Army South. I believe that this is my greatest contribution as a general officer here: opening doors, keeping them open, facilitating understanding and mutual appreciation, and showing that not only the Brazilian Army, but all armies from our region, can integrate and participate in ARSOUTH activities. I think my greatest legacy will be the consolidation of a general officer’s participation from a partner nation as a deputy commander at U.S. Army South.
Diálogo: Do you think language is a barrier to achieving full interoperability?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: I wouldn’t say it’s a barrier, but simply another challenge. Ideally, everyone here would speak the same language. But we understand that this is not possible. Therefore, it’s another aspect of interoperability, which requires work. One must be aware that perhaps the other person did not fully understand what was meant.
Diálogo: Can you give an example?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: In Portuguese, the term segurança translates into English as “safety” and “security” with nuances in their applications and as such with different actions associated with each of their applications. Therefore, when creating a joint exercise, a “language filter” should be applied to adapt and adjust the terms so interoperability is as complete as possible.
Diálogo: You mentioned joint exercises. The most recent was Culminating, which brought together ARSOUTH and partner nations. Can you elaborate on the importance of this exercise and the participation of Brazilian service members?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: I will start by explaining the name. The name Culminating meant the culmination of a plan that began five years ago. It took detailed planning, meticulous logistics, and proper training to succeed in a high-intensity, high-level exercise like this, with the U.S. Army — one of the best trained and powerful armies in the world. The information we received so far is the best possible. The result was positive, with an excellent performance from our personnel. I believe that this is the first relevant aspect of the exercise, in other words, the fact that the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) just welcomed a Company of Paratroopers trained at the highest level. The second important aspect is that the exercise promoted training of the EB’s expeditionary capacity, to deploy a Brazilian troop to operate anywhere in the world. In the end, it’s a logistics exercise since it requires the transport of personnel, ammunition, and weapons, and all of this in a COVID-19 environment. Without a doubt, this was a complicating factor, which forced us to take all precautions, such as testing before boarding to identify any contamination, and keeping the troops quarantined for some time before beginning the exercise. I also consider the increased interoperability between our armies a win, which is directly connected to my role at ARSOUTH. Finally, Culminating served as a model for exercises with other armies. For instance, Colombia will also send a platoon mid-year to participate in an exercise with U.S. service members, at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The ARSOUTH commander [U.S. Army Major General Daniel R. Walrath] intends to conduct a large annual rotational exercise with a partner nation in our region.
Diálogo: What is the main lesson learned in your current position at ARSOUTH?
Maj. Gen. Alcides: I consider my most important lesson learned to be understanding and knowing the decision-making process of the U.S. Army. I had a chance to witness this in an exercise setting and in real life, when the U.S. provided relief to victims and distributed humanitarian aid to Central American countries hit by hurricanes Eta and Iota, together with military forces of the affected nations.