More than 1,000 Brazilian Army and Navy personnel participated in the exercise to retake an area that had been simulated to be overrun by invaders. The training – dubbed Operation Ribeirinha (Riverside in Portuguese) – took place from October 11th to 17th in a region located nearly 40 kilometers from the city of Porto Murtinho, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, near Paraguay.
During the exercise, 100 marines equipped with one ship and one airplane posed as enemy combatants, while another 700 carried out the mission of retaking the invaded area. Among the participants were 200 marines stationed in Ládario. They landed ashore, opening up a staging area for 135 Army soldiers.
“During Operation Ribeirinha, people pretend that a given area has been taken by an enemy group. The Marines arrive on site to retake the area. After the area is brought under control, our Army troops come ashore to infiltrate the area. That is to say, they advance over the terrain until they guarantee that they have fully secured the area,” explained Rear Admiral Petrônio Augusto Siqueira de Aguiar, commander of the 6th Naval District. This Navy unit and the Army’s 18th Border Infantry Brigade worked together to plan and execute Operation Ribeirinha.
“The interaction between these two forces was exceptional. Our goal was to complete military operations training while fostering a mutual understanding between members of these units,” Rear Adm. Petrônio said. “The region where we held the operation is primarily a river area, and that is why Operation Ribeirinha is so important. I suppose that any potential need to deploy troops here in this region would be done just the way we did.”
The two forces came together in a single phase of two different operations: the Brazilian Navy’s Operation Fronteira Sul (Southern Border in Portuguese), and the Army’s Operation Ricardo Franco. “These operations complemented each other, and they allowed for interoperability between the two forces. Both forces deployed along the border area of the Paraguay River,” said Major General João Denison Maia Correia, commander of the Brazilian Army’s 18th Border Infantry Brigade.
The area that Maj. Gen. Denison is referring to is located between the cities of Ladário, in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and Porto Murtinho in the southern part of the state. The Paraguay River spans 520 kilometers, which separate the two cities. Of these, 300 kilometers are shared waters between Brazil and Paraguay.
Operation Fronteira Sul achieves its objectives
Operation Fronteira Sul was held from October 5th to 21st, during which four different phases of the operation were implemented. Each phase corresponded to a different objective: military training for the troops, hydrographic survey, medical aid, and navigational safety operations.
In May of this year, the Adagio-based 6th Naval District Command conducted Operation Celeiro (Barn in Portuguese). The operation had the same objectives as Operation Fronteira Sul but was limited to the northern part of the state, along the border with Bolivia.
“Now, in addition to our operating in a different area, there were also a larger number of troops involved. It was a more solid operation,” said Rear Adm. Petrônio.
In the troop-training phase of Operation Ribeirinha, the Navy deployed 10 ships, two planes, and dozens of speedboats, while the Army deployed one vessel and one plane. One airplane and one ship were in the hands of soldiers posing as the enemy, who surprised and attacked the other team. The exercise allowed troops to put rapid-response exercises into practice.
While sailing towards the territory that served as the land-based setting for the training, firing and aerial reconnaissance exercises were carried out in order to ascertain the exact position of the enemy unit.
Rear Adm. Petrônio explained that the hydrographic survey was part of the navigational safety operations, as it required updating the nautical charts that are used by navigators to orient themselves as they pilot their vessels. “The Paraguay-Paraná waterway is quite important, and it is bound to become even more so. The river is constantly changing, and that is why we must always do new hydrographic surveys.”
As a way of promoting navigational safety, naval inspection operations were also conducted to verify whether the boats on the Paraguay River had the required lifesaving equipment and whether the pilots of those vessels were duly qualified.
Additionally, a medical team from the hospital ship Tenente Maximiano conducted 425 medical examinations, 161 dental procedures, and distributed more than 30,000 medications to residents in the city of Porto Murtinho and in the Paraguayan town of Isla Margarita.
Operation Ricardo Franco
Operation Ricardo Franco included the participation of 1,250 soldiers from units under the command of the Army’s 18th Border Infantry Brigade. As opposed to the naval operations, which had multiple objectives, the land force focused on advanced training operations for its troops.
“We geared the operations towards a wide array of conflicts in which offensive and defensive operations, pacification operations, and operations for providing support to government agencies, among others, were all carried out,” Maj. Gen. Denison said.