The Brazilian coastline between the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo served as the backdrop for two important Brazilian military training operations. Operation Atlantic V (Operação Atlântico)—a Ministry of Defense-coordinated joint military exercise to protect territorial waters—and Operation Dragon XXXIX (Operação Dragão)—a Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) activity that concludes the marines’ annual training cycle, took place November 6-14, 2018.
It was the first time that both operations were conducted jointly, mobilizing approximately 3,000 service members from MB, the Brazilian Army, and the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese). The activity included an amphibious operation simulation, characteristic of Operation Dragon, with a focus on evacuating non-combatants.
On November 9th, marine troops disembarked at Itaoca Beach, on the coast of Espírito Santo. About 1,700 service members from Fleet Marine Squad (FFE, in Portuguese) took part in the activity that constituted the operation’s D-Day.
The training scenarios consisted of guaranteeing the security for the evacuation of 3,000 Brazilians at risk in a fictitious foreign country, while observing human rights and protecting citizens’ well-being. Land activities simulated triage, and evacuation of civilians.
“We disembarked with amphibious resources, assembled four meeting areas for evacuees, and an Evacuee Control Center [CCE, in Portuguese]. Civilians were transported to triage at the CCE and, finally, taken aboard vessels and aircraft to the ships to proceed to a safe destination,” said MB Marine Corps Colonel Dirlei Donizete Codo, head of FFE Operations.
MB used about 10 ships, including the multipurpose dock ship Bahia, the tank landing ship Almirante Saboia, the oceanic patrol ship Apa, and the multipurpose helicopter carrier Atlântico, MB’s new flagship, which participated in an operation in Brazilian waters for the first time. Additionally, about 106 operational vehicles and 12 armored cars, among those eight amphibious vehicles, also participated. MB and FAB carried out the aerial activities with their aircraft.
MB Lieutenant Commander Felipe Folgoso Sasaki served as the operations officer of the Amphibious Task Force, composed of his General Staff. “Our main task was to coordinate all the ships and aircraft to support the ongoing land activities,” he said.
One of the challenges faced during the operation were adverse climate conditions, which at times modified the initial plan. “In some cases, it was not possible to deploy troops to the beach by boat, because of choppy seas. In that case we actively arranged other available transportation, such as a helicopter, while providing instructions to everyone involved,” said Lt. Cmdr. Sasaki.
Foreign officers, such as U.S. Marine Corps Major James Richard Smith, who is part of an exchange program with the Brazilian Marine Corps, participated in the activities. “It’s always good to learn and observe the capabilities of service members from partner nations during practical training,” said Maj. Smith.
The officer emphasized the value of the operation for marines training. “We were able to apply the main amphibious assault tactics in a real environment when ships were launching marines into the sea,” said Maj. Smith. “This year’s theme reinforced the applicability of amphibious operations, either against an enemy or in a situation supporting the evacuation of civilians.”
Bolivian Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Hans Larry Tito Coronel, who was present for the exercise, emphasized the humanitarian aspect of the exercise. “During the evacuation of non-combatants, such as this simulated operation, there are many factors at play, such as international laws, diplomacy, and many risks that can interfere with the progress of the operations,” he said. “It’s crucial to have personnel and resources ready at different levels to make timely and accurate decisions.”
The foreign officers also emphasized the benefits of the exchange with MB. “I was able to observe MB’s many logistics improvements, and understand the doctrine used,” said Lt. j.g. Tito. “Brazil and the United States have an enduring history of joint operations and when we share knowledge we can improve together,” Maj. Smith added.
Training ensures interoperability
For Col. Dirlei, including the 2018 edition of Dragon into Atlantic V increased interoperability for all participating service members. “It was a very productive training event, with a significant increase in readiness level and resource availability. The marines increased their professional capabilities,” he said. “The exercise not only enabled the training of joint amphibious forces in their traditional tasks, but also contributed to interoperability and the integration of resources and troops from the Army and the Air Force,” said Lt. Cmdr. Sasaki.
One of the highlights of Atlantic V was the hospital complex assembled aboard the multipurpose dock ship Bahia. The 500-square meter complex had two operating rooms, an intensive care unit, and the capacity to see 100 patients a day. During the exercise, a joint medical structure was setup with professionals from the three branches for medical support training in situations similar to the exercise’s scenario.
One of the simulated activities was an aeromedical evacuation and the landing of a FAB aircraft, bringing a patient to be seen aboard the ship. According to FAB Lieutenant General Ricardo Cesar Mangrich, interim commander of the Aerospace Operations Command, the exercise provided important training on humanitarian aid, transportation, and assistance to the wounded. “Our doctors were able to practice care aboard a ship, which is not as common for our service members, but is very beneficial in a joint operation,” he said.
FAB participated in the operation with eight aircraft. In addition to transporting the wounded, FAB pilots also launched paratroopers, transported troops, and carried out reconnaissance missions. “It was an excellent opportunity for the maritime patrol to train in a real mission,” concluded Lt. Gen. Mangrich.