The Reinforcement Squad, the command responsible for providing reinforcement detachments to Brazil’s Marine Corps (CFN, per its Portuguese acronym), is located in the peaceful seashore area of São Gonçalo, with a beautiful view over the city of Rio de Janeiro. The daily life of the troops serving there, however, is anything but tranquil, since their main duty is to provide specialized detachments to the operational groups under CFN. To learn more about this force and its logistics focus, Diálogo interviewed Major General José Luiz Corrêa da Silva, the Reinforcement Squad commander, during the 60th anniversary of the Fleet Marine Force.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the Fleet Marine Force celebrating its 60th anniversary?
Major General José Luiz Corrêa da Silva: The 60th anniversary of the Fleet Marine Force reflects the maturity of a process started in 1957, which provided restructuring promoted by the Marine Corps. Now, we have gone through six decades of reorganization and restructuring to comply with the basic principle for employing this force, which is to allow an administrative organization to be quickly converted into a combat organization. What does that mean? You have an infantry battalion that quickly becomes a ground combat component. You have an artillery battalion that quickly becomes a corps support component, and that is how they go on and create components. In our case, all this took place during the maturity process and then, in 2001, when the Third Millennium Workshop took place, the Marine Corps’ operational organization was restructured. So, now you have operational groups of marines, which are task-based organizations that are only equipped with whatever they need for the particular mission to be carried out. You will always have a ground combat component, and there will always be a component of combat support services, i.e., logistics, and that is exactly what the Reinforcement Squad’s vocation is.
Diálogo: What is your biggest challenge as the Reinforcement Squad’s commander?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: Presently, the greatest challenge is to be able to maintain this working structure. I regularly speak to my subordinate commanders about new proposals to submit to the commander of the Fleet Marine Force, that reach the general commander of the Marine Corps, so this structure can be further improved.
Diálogo: In what sense do you mean “maintain?”
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: In terms of training and materials, and compliance with the doctrine. We are always reviewing, studying, and experimenting with the doctrine, jointly with the recently created Doctrine Development Command.
Diálogo: The country is going through a severe financial crisis. How does this impact the Reinforcement Squad?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: MIt has a direct impact on how promptly we receive funds. But regardless of the country’s financial situation, we were subjected to budget cuts, to which we had to adapt without compromising those structures. We never stopped doing things; we continued with our daily routine throughout this period, paying the bills required by the operations.
Diálogo: In this sense, did the Brazilian Navy’s participation in ensuring the security of the so-called major events and UN peacekeeping missions help? Is it still helping with financial support?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: Yes. The Marine Corps received a good portion of the funds due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games (2016), the Confederations Cup (2015), the World Cup (2014), and the World Military Games (2011). We also receive funds due to our presence in Haiti [MINUSTAH] and in Lebanon [UNIFIL]. So the Ministry of Defense has transferred and continues to transfer funds to the Navy. These transfers were very instrumental, as they allowed us to purchase a considerable amount of materials. Even though it coincided with budget restrictions for our day-to-day upkeep, we were able to overcome these unfavorable circumstances, and still had more than enough materials to use in the major events, which are now left as a legacy to the force.
Diálogo: What kinds of materials?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: I am referring to vehicles, police equipment, and healthcare materials since we have a medical unit that is under the Reinforcement Squad’s command. We have never received so much in material resources as we received in the last three or four years and, especially last year, we received plenty of materials, such as arms and communication equipment, so we have made great progress on that front.
Diálogo: So you consider that over the last few years, these were the most important advances of the Reinforcement Squad?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: That’s what I think. We have moved forward considerably in terms of materials.
Diálogo: Now that there are no more major events scheduled, what does the future look like?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: We will continue to carry out our daily routine, which consists of our regular preparations to carry out amphibious operations, as we continue to face challenges in our exercises. Our challenge has always been to conduct our exercises in a responsible and thoughtful manner without causing any accidents and always having the troops ready to engage in amphibious operations, which is our primary responsibility. It is true we have no more major events scheduled, but we were never just motivated by these great events. Our motivation is that the country needs to have troops prepared to conduct amphibious operations. This is truly what motivates us, and we depend on the Navy providing us with ammunition, ships for us to embark on and disembark from, and being able to operate offshore. We are always ready, and we respond promptly to any calls; this is our motivation. It does not come from being deployed to the streets or being called to maintain law and order. This is a consequence, but a positive one, of being a highly prepared troop. This is the main aspect that has to be clear to all. The Brazilian Marines Corps are an expeditionary force, and the definition of “expeditionary” is to be ready for any type of deployment, as far as amphibious operations are concerned. Last year, we returned to amphibious operations with Operation Dragão (Dragon) XXXVII, and this year we will again have what we always had, which are the Sinal Vermelho (Red Alert) operations. If a Sinal Vermelho Operation is launched, we have 48 hours to be fully on board and ready to depart for a mission. Our motivation is the number of shots we fire every year, the number of kilometers we travel on the roads to conduct our exercises, as well as the number of days we spend on maneuvers and exercises.
Diálogo: Can you tell us about the force’s and the Brazilian Navy’s joint participation in activities with other countries, such as humanitarian aid?
Maj. Gen. Corrêa: You touched on a very important aspect when you mentioned other countries because this is also a very strong element of motivation for our troops. Each time we have contact with another country’s armed forces, this also strongly motivates us to show them what we are capable of. When some operation abroad is announced that will promote contact with other countries’ navies, or when a major training event is announced, such as the Americas Exchange, or when we are informed that marines from other countries are coming to do their training with us, this is all extremely motivating. When I talked about funds and new resources, I did not mention the recent purchase made by the Marine Corps General Command of new tracked vehicles, the so-called amphibious vehicles, or CLAnfs, which will be arriving soon, in March. The battalion which will hold and use these assets is actually the Amphibious Vehicles Battalion that is under the command of the Reinforcement Squad. So our assets are now going to include 23 new tanks, which have been refurbished from the hulls of our existing tanks by the United States. In effect, our troops are really motivated to take part in this process, which includes receiving, preparing and deploying these new tanks. Then, regarding the other operations like humanitarian aid, as you mentioned, or the searches we have been conducting in penitentiaries around the country, these are specific tasks of the Reinforcement Squad, the so-called benign operations which, in accordance with the Navy’s basic doctrine, are actions conducted on behalf of the public. In the Reinforcement Squad, we have an expeditionary medical unit, and this unit is permanently ready with materials already packed so we may promptly handle any disaster. Normally, together with the medical unit, a nuclear-biological-chemical-radiological defense company comes along to do the assessment in these areas, as well as the police to help control disturbances, as the need arises, or to ensure the security of the engineering work site, or the security of the field hospitals used by the expeditionary medical unit. All of this is supported by our logistics battalion that is part of the supply, provisioning, transportation, and maintenance system. The Reinforcement Squad is a major logistics command, where some units handle specific tasks dealing with amphibious operations, and where no two units are exactly the same. We actually have seven units, each with their own specific tasks, completely different from the other units. Since we are talking about challenges, one of my great challenges is to make sure that all this training is integrated, and that each one also corresponds to the demands of the other. We have been putting this into practice over the last two years, based on relevant experience I acquired as commander of the Logistics Battalion. This is what I call cross-training, where the training of one unit also benefits the others. Take for example the medical unit. It receives training as a medical unit, but it also provides training to all the other units in what we call basic life support. This means it prepares all others for a possible future need in the healthcare area. The police train not only themselves but also the other units in first combat, for example, to control disturbances and so on and so forth. In the end, we are doing all this training so that all units are aware of each other’s importance, and know how to help each other, especially in the case of real need.