Largest Simulated Peacekeeping Mission Exercise Held in Brazil
By Taciana Moury/Diálogo May 21, 2018
Viking 2018 involved 2,500 participants from 50 countries. For the first time a non-European country took part in hosting the event.
The Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Headquarters in Brasília operated as one of the remote sites for the Viking 2018 exercise, April 16th–26th. This was the first time a non-European country participated in hosting the event—Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Serbia, and Sweden co-hosted the 2018 edition.
Viking is the largest simulated peacekeeping mission exercise in the world and its purpose is to train service members, police forces, and civilian agencies on the challenges of peacekeeping operations and international crisis management. The 2018 edition included 2,500 participants from close to 50 countries and 35 organizations. The exercise, conducted every four years since 1999, is organized by the Swedish Armed Forces, in cooperation with the Folke Bernadotte Academy—a Swedish government agency for peace, security and development. The event also counts with support from the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The EB Land Operations Command (COTER, in Portuguese), coordinated the Brazilian site. Organization for the event began in 2015—soon after Sweden sent the invitation—and involved huge challenges, as EB General Paulo Humberto Cesar de Oliveira, commander of COTER, told Diálogo. “We had to adjust to simultaneous integration with all the other sites in the exercise and on different continents. We would begin working here in Brazil at 5 a.m., in line with the time zone of the other participating countries,” said Gen. Paulo Humberto. Participation in Viking 2018, he added, provided excellent training for Brazilian ground forces, which learned from the operations of armed forces, police, and civilian agencies of other countries. “This facilitated our understanding of what it takes to coordinate an actual operation, it helps with integration and reduces our response time.”
In addition to operating as a remote site, Brazil was also invited to take part in the main exercise in Sweden. A fictitious UN mission was created, where EB Major General Francisco Humberto Montenegro Junior assumed the position of force commander and led a multinational General Staff, with service members from about 10 countries.
During the simulation exercise, Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, chief of the Swedish Defense General Staff, visited the Brazilian site and praised the organization and efficiency of the structure assembled in Brazil. “It was great to realize the capacity of cooperation between joint solution participants to resolve the issues that arose, instead of working in isolation. This is Viking’s purpose,” said Lt. Gen. Gyllensporre. The officer validated the choice of Brazil as a remote site for the exercise. The country counts with more than a decade of leadership in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH, in French) and participated in other international missions. “It was the perfect country to host our site outside Europe and make our exercise even more relevant.”
Gen. Paulo Humberto explained that Viking works as a simultaneous and synchronized war game in one of the exercise sites. “In this scenario, opposing forces invade a fictitious country. From then on, we have two operations: one under NATO, which opposes the invasion militarily, causing a humanitarian crisis; and the other, under the auspices of the UN, which coordinates a peacekeeping operation to resolve the crisis. As such, simulated military problems, frequent in real-world situations, arise, to which participants must give their best responses,” he said.
According to EB Lieutenant General José Eduardo Pereira, commander and director of the exercise in Brazil, the Latin American site was assembled in accordance with the standard established by the Viking command in Sweden, and counted with the participation of 200 civilians and service members from 15 countries, including the United States, Canada, Peru, Argentina and Mexico, as well as Brazilian military police from the Federal District and the state of São Paulo. According to Lt. Gen. José Eduardo, holding the exercise in Brazil leaves an important legacy for EB, especially for COTER. “Four years from now, we intend to repeat the exercise. It may not be in Brasília, it could be somewhere else. It’s a very positive experience and an important gain for the COTER training doctrine,” he said.
The remote Viking 2018 site in Brazil used a local simulator: Combater—an EB war game—while Sweden used its own system, called Tyr. “Integration between both simulators was only achieved by means of a command and control system the U.S. Army provided, and it required six months of work to ensure that interconnectivity was successful,” said Lt. Gen. José Eduardo. Ensuring connectivity during the activity, he added, was one of the greatest challenges. “We needed to be continuously connected. We conducted three video conferences a day with Sweden and the entire game was synchronized. We had to send Brazilian service members to both Sweden and the United States for training,” he said, emphasizing the importance of the United States as a partner in Viking 2018. “The U.S. supported us with resources and personnel, and sent a team of professionals to our site.”
U.S. Army Colonel Brian Foster, chief of the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute of the U.S. Army War College, highlighted participants’ efficiency in preparing for peacekeeping missions. According to Col. Foster, assigned to the General Staff at the Brazilian site, the exercise allowed for observations on Brazilian operations under the auspices of the UN and NATO, as well as learning more about the work of the civilian and police force components. “There is a lot to learn from the Brazilians, who have broad experience in peacekeeping missions,” said Col. Foster.
A taste of reality
In the Brazilian simulation, EB Major General José Ricardo Vendramin Nunes commanded the Peacekeeping Force. He led a multidisciplinary team of 49 officers from 15 countries. “We had to provide solutions within UN required standards, protocols, documents that systemize the analysis of the problem and its solutions and answers. As such, integration with friendly countries was very important to form this great team. The confidence and our aggregated skills form an efficient and capable group,” said Maj. Gen. Vendramin.
The officer, assigned to the UN Peacekeeping Operations Department in New York, explained to Diálogo that the best thing about Viking is its faithful reproduction of reality, essential for the success of preparation. “The most critical situations happening in the modern world are refugee crises in certain areas, lack of security, critical humanitarian crises, human trafficking, arms smuggling, which were all featured in Viking 2018,” said Maj. Gen. Vendramin. “The team is always on high alert. There is pressure from all sides and we have to provide quick responses that will affect the lives of other people, exactly like in a peacekeeping mission.”
Benefits of the exercise
A participant of the exercise, EB Colonel Carla Beatriz Medeiros, celebrated the 2018 edition’s focus on gender issues. “When I took part in the mission in Haiti, my contingent had almost 800 people, but only six were women. This shows the necessity, already identified by UN, to expand female presence in missions,” she said.
EB Captain Pablo Gustavo Polhmann, who was part of the Peacekeeping Force at the Brazilian site, never had any experience on real peacekeeping missions, but felt motivated after Viking 2018. “The possibility of operating with service members and international agencies, which is what happened during the exercise, enables us to get to know different realities and concepts and work toward a common objective, which is very positive. I would like to take part in a real operation in the future,” he concluded.