If legions of foreign troops were to invade Brazil and attempt to occupy the rivers and villages of the Amazon, warriors trained in jungle combat would silently advance upon the enemy, using the jungle as their ally. At nightfall, the warriors would attack the enemy’s main bases and then return to the depths of the jungle, while the invading force would never even know that the local jungle experts were waiting for them all along.
In the jungle, a single mistake by an enemy Soldier sets off an ambush by the jungle warriors, who attack with machine guns as well as by dropping logs on their adversaries' heads from tree branches above.
The surviving invaders might try to request back-up, but the thick jungle brush prevents any radio communication. And if they try to flee, they would be stopped by the poison darts fired on them by indigenous Soldiers on trees.
This scenario is an example of how jungle warriors, who are Military service members trained by the Brazilian Army's Jungle Warfare Training Center (CIGS), could respond to an invasion.
The Brazilian Military created the CIGS in 1964 after considering they lacked in having an operational unit capable of utilizing Brazil's thick Amazon jungle to their benefit. Since then jungle warfare training conducted by CIGS is widely considered to be the best in the world.
Training for jungle combat
CIGS trains jungle warriors for irregular combat, rather than defending a fixed point, as most conventional Military units would do. For instance, trainees are taught to impede enemy Soldiers by using booby traps and launching furtive attacks. CIGS warriors learn how to use their knowledge of the jungle and technological tools, such as communications equipment, to prevail in jungle combat.
For students, completing the program and earning the Seal of the Jaguar and the Jungle Warrior’s Saber is difficult. The course is intense and teaches service members how to obtain from the things they need from the jungle to survive and fight successfully.
Since the first class graduated in 1966, a total of 5,766 students have completed the program successfully, including the 2014 graduates, according to information from the center.
CIGS conducts two 12-week training sessions a year offering seven different categories of jungle operations courses.
“CIGS is a fundamental tool for military training for the largest and most unusual jungle biosphere in the world,” said Major Marcus Vinícius, CIGS Jungle Operations Chief. “The candidates for this training course are subjected to regular medical exams, physical, and cognitive tests.”
The program is limited to 100 candidates per training session, of whom about 80 percent complete the course, while about 10 percent withdraw, according to CIGS.
The selection process is rigorous and divides the students into two 50-student shifts commanded by 40 instructors – 20 officers and 20 sergeants.
Conducted at six of the seven bases scattered throughout a closed jungle area measuring 1,152 km² with a 95 percent preservation rate, the course takes place in a region known as the “Cursed Square” in Manaus, capital city of the State of Amazonas.
The training unfolds in three phases, which are known as Jungle Life, Special Techniques, and Jungle Operations.
The first phase, which takes place during the first week of the program, is considered to be the most challenging. Students learn to become psychologically stronger, avoid tropical diseases, and find food and water in the jungle. Students also learn to identify dangerous plants and animals and receive physical military training.
In the second phase, during the second, third, and fourth weeks, students learn topography, how to install and operate communications antennae, the use of explosives, how to launch ambushes, and how to conduct operations using helicopters and ships. During this phase, students spend a lot of time on the firing range, where they use nearly 1,000 cartridges of ammunition.
Students also must prove their physical aptitude by swimming and crossing a portion of the Rio Negro while carrying a backpack, a rifle, and other equipment.
After passing the first two phases, students complete a series of missions during weeks five through 10 of the program, during which they use all they have learned up to that point.
The training, an intensive and physically and mentally challenging period, concludes with a non-war operation in the municipalities of Tabatinga and São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the State of Amazonas; and Boa Vista, in the State of Roraima.
“[In all training phases, the students] wake up at 0450 and receive Military physical training at 0500. Students have breakfast at 0600, attend class from 0700 to 1150, have lunch at noon, attend more classes from 1300 to 1750 and have dinner at 1800," said Maj. Vinícius. "Finally, students attend their last classes from 1900 to 2250 and then have supper, complete a sanitation inspection (personal hygiene), and perform weapons maintenance at 2300. They go to sleep at midnight. This routine is repeated for 10 weeks."
Preparing students for jungle combat is important, considering the large amount of forest land in the country.
“Amazônia Legal is a region that covers more than half of Brazil’s territory, with approximately 12,000 km of the land border and 1,000 km of the coast,” Colonel Alfredo José Ferreira Dias, commander of the CIGS, told the Brazilian Army’s Verde-Oliva magazine in its October 2014 edition. “All of this, from a Military point of view, underscores the importance of CIGS, whose primary mission is to train Special Forces in jungle warfare, while also conducting doctrinal research and experiments to defend and protect the Amazon and Brazil.”
The origin of the expression, “Jungle!”
The CIGS has a rich and colorful history.
“Until the mid-1960s, the Brazilian Army did not have Troops or service members specializing in jungle combat," Maj. Vinícius said. "This fact was made clear by the enormous difficulties encountered in recovering the bodies of victims of an airplane accident involving a Panair Brasil Constellation flight in 1962. Fifty people died, and the operation took over a week."
The school is currently located in the same area where the accident occurred. Two years after its establishment by presidential decree, CIGS conducted its first training course, with a class for officers and another one for Army sergeants major and other sergeants. Then-Artillery Major Jorge Teixeira de Oliveira, known as Teixeirão, was the CIGS's first commander and became the school's patron.
“The Army was very happy with the choice of Maj. Teixeira as the first commander. He served in the Parachutist Division Core, he was deployed abroad, and when he returned, he created CIGS out of nothing,” said Colonel Nilton Correa Lampert, the 11th commander, who was a student for the first CIGS course.
Maj. Teixeira created the expression “Jungle!” (Selva) which is used by Army Soldiers throughout the Amazon. It is used both as a greeting and as a warning.
In 1969, CIGS was divided into three initial categories: A ( for senior officers), B (for captains and lieutenants), and C (for sergeants major and other sergeants). But, in 2010, it was further divided into categories D (for sergeants major and sergeants first class), E (for medical officers), F (for medical sergeants major and other sergeants) and G (for cadets).
In addition to the Army, other service members also participate in the course, from the Navy, Air Force, auxiliary forces (Military Police and Firefighters), and military officers from 28 partner nations, including United States Special Operations Forces.
U.S. Special Operations Warrant Officer Javier Alejandro, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, graduated from the demanding course in 2009.
Selected for his fluency in Portuguese, the experienced Green Beret was privileged and honored to be nominated to the course, according to U.S. Special Operations website news.soc.mil.
“Once in Brazil, I learned the majority of the officers attending trained for well over six months in order to be ready for the course,” said Alejandro. “[The course] is very physically demanding, and not being used to the weather [average temperature 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity) could determine whether you made it through the first week of training.”
The Special Operations Command site highlighted that Alejandro's opportunity to train next to Brazilian counterparts had been valuable in expanding an important relationship between the Brazilian Armed Forces and the U.S. Military.
In total, 26 countries' military forces have taken part in the Jungle Warfare course, with a total of 444 international graduates, according to a report by Brazilian website G1.Globo.com. Of those, 15 are neighboring countries in the Americas, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay.