Just about one year after arriving in Miami for his post as Partner Nation Liaison Officer with SOUTHCOM component Marine Forces South, Brazilian Marine Corps Commander Alexandre Silva prepares to return home with a new role and a year’s worth of valuable lessons and experiences.
On February 19, U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, honored his Brazilian fellow Marine with the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his valuable contributions to facilitating stronger bonds between Brazil and the United States, and in general, to SOUTHCOM.
Diálogo spoke to Commander Silva about the lessons learned and experiences he will take back after having been embedded within the SOUTHCOM staff for a year. “SOUTHCOM is a U.S. organization unlike any of those we have in Brazil,” he said. “It is responsible for many tasks that would be carried out in Brazil by our Ministry of Defense, Navy Staff and/or Chief of Naval Operations,” he added.
A specific event that stood out for him was the medical aid SOUTHCOM provided to support the victims of the recent tragic nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul state. “A good example of SOUTHCOM’s efficient handling of interagency tasks is the excellent assistance that SOUTHCOM provided to assist Brazil with the Cyanokit [medical treatment for cyanide poisoning],” he stated.
Cdr. Silva added that in addition to the various examples of leadership, his biggest lesson learned was specifically the skill of handling interagency tasks and missions. But he highlighted a phrase from Gen. Kelly himself, which according to Cdr. Silva “is the best example of leadership” he’d seen in his year-long assignment.
He quoted a recent comment by the Marine General with regard to the country’s current budget issues, in which he stated that he would not ask SOUTHCOM personnel to do more with less, but rather tell his subordinates what they cannot do with the budget reduction. “This is recognition of the great job that everyone is already doing, a job well committed with their mission,” acknowledged the Brazilian Marine Commander.
With regard to his role as Partner Nation Liaison Officer (PNLO), Cdr. Silva explained that some of the functions he has been responsible for would otherwise be achieved through the existing relationships between the Armed Forces of both countries, through bureaucratic and administrative processes which normally take time. He highlighted that the importance of the PNLO program is not only to introduce the organizational culture of each representative’s institution to SOUTHCOM and its staff, but also, to have each liaison officer understand the work ethic of the U.S. Armed Forces, “so we can share that knowledge with our peers when we go back to our countries, and utilize it to strengthen our relationship, without the misunderstandings that sometimes come about because of the language or cultural differences.”
In 2014, Cdr. Silva will assume the role of commander of the Marine Artillery Batallion in Rio de Janeiro, but until then he will serve under the Marine Squadron Force, in preparation for his future post at the command.