Located in the dry climate and high temperatures of the state of Goiás (100 kilometers from Brasilia), Formosa Training Camp rests in Brazil’s central region. Operation Formosa took place in this desert-like landscape. The annual training is the largest of the Brazilian Navy’s (MB, per its Portuguese acronym) Fleet Marine Squad (FFE, per its Portuguese acronym).
One of the operation’s main objectives is to test “the Fleet Marine Squad’s logistics capacity and the marine’s strength,” explained Brazilian Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Helcio Blacker Espozel Junior, an officer in FFE’s Operations Command. The harsh climate and distance from FFE—headquartered in the state of Rio de Janeiro—contributed to Camp Formosa’s selection as the site of the operation.
The exercise aims to develop missions with more military personnel trained to shoot with the largest variety of weapons. Operation Formosa 2017, held October 4th–16th, involved about 1,700 service members. The number included MB professionals, two service members from the Brazilian Air Force, and 15 foreign service members from the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and France.
Foreign officers acted as observers, sharing experiences in their areas of expertise. U.S. service members were an exception as they actively participated “in planning and development of the CFN's Artillery Battalion, Tactical Air Control and Air Defense Battalion, and Expeditionary Medical Unit,” said U.S. Marine Corps Captain Jose M. Negrete, the public affairs officer with U.S. Marine Corps Forces South.
The participation of the United States in Operation Formosa began in 2013, with six to 20 representatives attending each year. “We recognize Formosa is an excellent opportunity for the U.S. Marine Corps to build interoperability with Brazil while also strengthening both forces’ readiness,” Capt. Negrete said.
Capt. Negrete also emphasized the factors confirming the importance of teamwork among American nations. “Devastating weather patterns have had significant impact throughout the region over the last several years and highlighted the need for coordinated relief efforts,” Capt. Negrete said. “This is why we continue to improve our integration with Brazilian forces through exercises such as Formosa.”
Deployment and demonstration
The first phase of the operation consists of the journey from FFE’s base in Rio de Janeiro to Formosa Training Camp. In 2017, more than 1,600 kilometers were covered in four days. Along the way, rest areas and three combat services support detachments, with personnel to perform equipment maintenance required during troop movement, were made available.
Once in Formosa, the first three days of the operation were devoted to train for the final phase of the exercise known as the tactical theme—an exercise in which participants have to put all their knowledge into practice in a mock real world situation. Next, participants performed an operational demonstration to give the public—service members and journalists, among others—an overview of what happens during Operation Formosa.
For more than three days, service members took charge of the battlefield. Based on the framework of an amphibious operation, the teams’ mission was to solve the problem Formosa’s coordinators put forth. “During this phase, members of a control group monitored serviced members to evaluate the procedures and review lessons learned. The lessons are later shared so procedures can be improved,” Lt. Col. Espozel said.
An amphibious operation is launched from sea toward a coastal area. Troops advance on the terrain and fulfill certain objectives. Since Formosa is not on the sea, its existence is imagined on maps. “To be able to simulate an amphibious operation, maps are prepared with the outline of the sea bordering Formosa Training Camp,” Lt. Col. Espozel explained. “With this mock sea, planning is done the same way it would in a real world operation, with all of the phases unfolding according to plan.”
In the final phase of the activities, different equipment, such as combat vehicles, aircraft, armored vehicles, amphibious vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles, were used in offensive and defensive military maneuvers. Operation Formosa also put to use all the weapons in the Brazilian Marine Corps’ arsenal with live munitions—the Multiple Rocket Launcher Battery was the highlight.
“The Brazilian Marine Corps is a professional, rapid-response troop of an expeditionary nature par excellence. Training with live munitions is considered basic for our marines’ professional development,” Lt. Col. Espozel noted. According to his assessment, the service members’ performance in the final phase of Operation Formosa exceeded expectations.