The Fleet Marine Squad (FFE, in Portuguese) of the Brazilian Navy’s (MB, in Portuguese) Marine Corps was created after World War II, when MB saw the need to establish a modern force with amphibious capabilities. FFE contributed to the security of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, as well as other major events recently held in Brazil, leveraging the capabilities of the Tonelero Battalion, the Marine Corps’s special operations unit. Diálogo spoke with MB Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paulo Martino Zuccaro, commander of FFE, about FFE’s contributions to security during major events and other topics.
Diálogo: Major events such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games left an important legacy for the Brazilian Armed Forces, in general. Is there a plan to continue investing in training the Brazilian Navy special forces?
Brazilian Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paulo Martino Zuccaro, commander of Fleet Marine Squad: Major events in Brazil in recent years motivated a strong investment in equipment and personnel for the fight against terrorist threats. As a result, all Brazilian special operations troops directly benefitted, as did chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense. They were the focus across the entire security system Brazil organized for these major events. Indeed, all other applications and aspects of Brazilian military power were strengthened, and means distributed based on priorities. But I think these two benefitted and received the most attention. Despite the budget challenges we face, we will certainly do all we can to retain what was earned and, if possible, increase it.
Diálogo: Brazil hosted UNITAS Amphibious 2018. Could you evaluate this exercise and briefly explain what it means?
Lt. Gen. Zuccaro: It was a great honor for us. However, I will remind you that this year  we hosted the tabletop exercise, whereas next year, with even greater satisfaction and pride, we will host the full-fledged exercise. At that point we will execute the operation, and though the date has yet to be determined, it will most likely be in August or September 2019, at the latest. It was a pleasure to have multi-level representatives from participating countries. They planned and had the opportunity to conduct the tabletop exercise. The operation calls for the use of a multinational force to respond to a natural disaster, in this case, a major hurricane. The aftermath will be mitigated using the multinational force, with emergency and rapid response, until other agencies or resources can mobilize to continue to respond to a major humanitarian crisis.
This situation is likely to happen. We should take into consideration that the Caribbean and Central American regions are prone to hurricanes and our entire continent may eventually experience other kinds of natural disasters. Of course, in such scenarios response time is crucial as fatalities can be reduced when logistics, medical support, and command and control structures are made available, not only to provide immediate support, but also to organize the area. In the absence of greater control, the affected area tends to fall into total chaos.
As such, the presence of command and control structures, fueling materials and essential items, and all the medical support that will certainly be necessary, represents an adequate first response to the situation. Under these circumstances, the use of force may be applicable, should there be loitering or violence. We have to keep in mind that this population lacks all control and normal social coexistence. In a situation like this, armed groups may emerge, or there may be threats to our support. Therefore, in addition to the support provided, there must be some level of force to counter these threats. This is what Operation UNITAS Amphibious 2019 will consist of, a great exercise for which we will once more welcome partner nations.
Diálogo: Could you name additional joint exercises between Brazil and other countries in the region and with the United States?
Lt. Gen. Zuccaro: The Brazilian Navy has a strong and longstanding partnership with the United States. For example, a recent exercise that just ended [early October 2018] is Operation Formosa. This is a major Marine Corps exercise that the Fleet Marine Squad carries out in Planalto Central, in the municipality of Formosa, very near the country’s capital, Brasília. At that location, thanks to a stunning instructional field made available by the Brazilian Army, we conducted a major operation, simulating the use of an amphibious brigade including all elements of combat, combat support, and logistics. Some members of the U.S. Marine Corps, both officers and noncommissioned officers, took part in the exercise, living through this entire operation with us, deploying to different battalions and companies, and executing their own activities. For instance, the health crew joined the Navy Expeditionary Medical Unit, logistics personnel deployed to the Marines Logistics Battalion, personnel from U.S. Marine Corps combat units joined the Infantry Battalion, and so forth.
The Tonelero Battalion, under the command of Brazilian Marine Corps Colonel Stewart da Paixão Gomes, participated in the exercise with a large number of special units and two service members from Paraguay. But this is only an example, among many others, in which service members of partner nations from the entire continent work shoulder to shoulder in our activities. It’s always a pleasure, always an honor, and a growth opportunity for us and for participating nations.
I’d like to point out that interoperability is always the main focus for those who want to operate in a multinational environment. There is nothing like taking part in an exercise on the ground, with representatives from all participating countries, to enable us to practice and improve what I consider to be one of the main requirements for success in a multinational operation.
Let’s remember that Brazil always uses its Armed Forces in situations that are legal and legitimate. This prevails in any situation, not only to defend our sovereignty, but also when required in other types of operations. We will prioritize its use in a multinational environment, under the aegis of international organizations. For this reason, we value and emphasize these training opportunities with partner nation forces.
Diálogo: You mentioned the Tonelero Battalion. What is the relevance of a special operations unit such as the Tonelero Battalion under Fleet Marine Squad?
Lt. Gen. Zuccaro: At first, the Tonelero Battalion was not under Fleet Marine Squad. I think the change didn’t just happen here, but followed a worldwide trend of valuing special operations. Over the last few decades, their relevance was validated based on their versatility, and the great potential of highly specialized troops, capable of performing tasks under very challenging conditions. Therefore, this potential was identified as being better associated with the command of large forces than to some type of combat support, as they were once considered.
This more direct association between special operations elements and force command resulted in moving the Marine Corps Special Operations Battalion under the Fleet Marine Squad’s direct supervision. This was the process and, in fact, this great operational potential can be used with greater intensity for more important objectives, effectively for commanding forces, more than to support operational units.
This versatility enables the use of special operations elements in a myriad operations and maneuvers, as stated in our doctrine. I will remind you that for Brazil, more specifically the Naval Military Doctrine, naval warfare operations, limited use of force operations, and other related activities are anticipated. The Marine Corps participates in the vast majority of these operations and activities, and I must add that there is an opportunity to use personnel and special operations resources in nearly all of them.