General Comments on the Brazilian Army’s First Participation in PANAMAX
By Dialogo August 22, 2013
Over 160 members of the security and military forces from 19 countries participated in PANAMAX 2013, held at the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) headquarters, between August 12 and 16. But there was something new among the participants this year: soldiers from the Brazilian Army. Traditionally only officers from the Brazilian Navy participated in this joint military exercise.
To better explain the participation of the Brazilian ground force in this important multinational annual exercise, sponsored by the U.S., Diálogo spoke with Major General José Eduardo Pereira, commander of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, located in Campinas (São Paulo state), who has been assigned the mission of supporting and preparing the next contingent to join the international peacekeeping force MINUSTAH –created by the UN in Haiti in 2004– in November.
Diálogo: Major General José Eduardo, how did the invitation for the Brazilian Army to participate in PANAMAX for the first time this year come to be?
Major General José Eduardo Pereira: Our participation in the operation is the result of a fairly lengthy process. Initially, the Defense Staff holds meetings known as Staff Talks. The Defense Staff holds their annual meetings either here or in the United States. During the meeting there is an exchange of information to determine what Brazil wants to do here in the United States and what they want to do in Brazil, as far as courses and exchange programs. In other words, this is where the interests and availabilities of both the Brazilian Army and the U.S. Army are discussed. This is always done one year prior, but last year the U.S. Army invited Brazil to participate in PANAMAX 2013. The Brazilian Army, until this year, had never participated, had never had the opportunity.
Diálogo: Is it because this exercise is more focused on the naval area?
Maj. Gen. José Eduardo: Not really. The maritime area is an important part of this exercise’s operations, but the ground, aerial, and space areas are also very important. Brazil, for some particular reason, has not had the opportunity to participate, but last year an invitation was extended and the Army command accepted. In Brazil, the Ground Operations Command chose São Paulo’s Army Division, the 2nd Army Division, to select and prepare the team to participate in this exercise. The current commander of the Second Division, General Floriano Peixoto, made the selections and issued the directions for preparation of the Brazilian Army soldiers who joined this assignment.
Diálogo: The participation of sergeants was another novelty, correct?
Maj. Gen. José Eduardo: This was a very important decision for us because officers are chosen to participate in the majority of these planning missions. The sergeants’ participation is very important to us because their career experience and knowledge is also helpful. We have never had the opportunity to bring sergeants to participate in an exercise like this. General Floriano Peixoto’s decision to select sergeants has contributed to the diversity of our team and complemented it well, as well as helping increase the value of sergeant participation in this kind of professional activity. I personally saw a very good performance from our team, especially the sergeants. I am very glad to see our members performing their activities with great dedication. It is important to point out that we tarined in São Paulo, coordinated by the 2nd Army Division, which was very appropriate, and we are seeing the results here now. Because of that, both the officers and the sergeants are performing their functions very well.
Diálogo: Is there a real exchange of information and intelligence in an exercise like this?
Maj. Gen. José Eduardo: The exercise takes place in a fictitious environment. The situation we face has been made up. Therefore, most of the intelligence data is not real; it was created for the scenario. A good take away is learning how to work with our comrades from abroad and about the way they work. During the preparation in Brazil, U.S. soldiers and soldiers from other armies went to São Paulo for a week and we trained on how to use the U.S. methodology and planning. We had the opportunity to learn this methodology and to practice many phases.
Diálogo: The U.S. government reduced the budget for the Department of Defense, which affected some military joint exercises. From your experience, even though it was your first time, did you notice any changes?
Maj. Gen. José Eduardo: No changes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Southern Command and their component commands, for the way we were welcomed here in Miami. The reception and hospitality were excellent. We had very good administrative support and must express our thanks for everyone’s thoughtfulness and friendliness. I only have positive things to say. If the budget was indeed reduced, the reduction was not felt by our team during this exercise.
Diálogo: Would you like to add anything else?
Maj. Gen. José Eduardo: As commander of the ground portion of this operation, I would like to mention that the main goal of our presence here, which is to establish a professional and personal relationship between the participating members from all countries, has been fulfilled. We are creating a communication channel, which, in the future, will generate trust and credibility in any type of relationship, whether in military or humanitarian assistance activities. The greatest benefit for us here is that we get to know people and build strong links of mutual trust between participating countries. There are nineteen countries involved, and the Brazilian Army has 41 soldiers. It has been a true pleasure to participate in PANAMAX 2013.
How do Brazil's armed forces see the catastrophic political situation that we are going through?