Hundreds of Brazilian Naval Academy cadets took part in Operation Aspirantex 2018 in January. In all, 1,336 service members, 207 of them cadets from the Brazilian Naval Academy, participated in the exercise. The objective was to improve training level for naval and air-naval assets, and familiarize students with life at sea.
According to Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) Rear Admiral Fernando Ranauro Cozzolino, commander of the 2nd Squadron Division and leader of Aspirantex 2018 Task Group, vessels departed from Rio de Janeiro Naval Base en route to the Port of Montevideo, Uruguay; the Port of Mar Del Plata, Argentina; and the cities of Rio Grande and Itajaí, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. “The operation also helped 168 cadets in their second year at the academy choose their corps [Navy, Marine Corps, or Navy Quartermaster Corps] and their military specialty [mechanics, electronics, or weapons systems],” Rear Adm. Cozzolino said.
From January 12th to February 1st, various exercises took place such as aircraft operations, replenishment at sea, and tactical maneuvers among vessels. Participants also performed shooting drills, firefighting exercises, navigation through demined channels, daytime and nighttime light cargo transfers, and fast rope descents to rapidly disembark fighters. They also searched for and held prisoners, and practiced mobility on land and in air under threat.
“Ships of the [2nd] Squadron Division—the tank landing ship [NDCC, in Portuguese] Almirante Saboia; the multipurpose landing craft [NDM, in Portuguese] Bahia; and the frigate União, the frigate Liberal; the tanker Almirante Gastão Motta, and patrol ships Guaporé and Benevente—all took part in the operation this year ,” Rear Adm. Cozzolino said. Aspirantex 2018 also included six aircraft from MB, such as a Seahawk S-70B anti-submarine helicopter (called SH-16 in Brazilian service) and UH-15 and UH-12/13 helicopters, as well as one A-4 Skyhawk attack-interceptor plane (called AF-1 in Brazilian service). The Brazilian Air Force was also present with six aircraft: two P-95 patrol planes and four A-1 attack aircraft.
Experience at sea
According to Rear Adm. Cozzolino, during the exercises cadets experienced classroom lessons firsthand. “Improving seamanship and getting to know the routine on Brazilian fleet vessels are some benefits of the training,” he said.
He also noted the importance of students’ visits to foreign ports, meant to demonstrate how operations are done in international waters and ports. “They mix with foreign rules, conditions, languages, and customs that are different from Brazil, get to know new cultures, and strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation, which are essential factors to ensure regional security,” he said.
In addition to participating in military exercises, during Aspirantex 2018 Naval Academy students also attended lectures and lived with service members from the ships’ different divisions. “They had direct contact with the ships’ crew, officers, and even the ships’ commanders, and were able to see for themselves how important each service member is in managing a naval asset in operations at sea,” Rear Adm. Cozzolino explained.
“The big challenge in carrying out Aspirantex is its logistical complexity, which stems from the need to assign and accommodate cadets on ships, and provide them the necessary level of comfort for their 21 days of temporary duty,” Rear Adm. Cozzolino said. He also noted the importance of using vessels capable of transporting marines, such as the NDCC Almirante Saboia and NDM Bahia, to ensure operational success.
The presence of a female corps
Six female cadets participated in Aspirantex 2018 aboard the NDM Bahia for the first time. In previous years female cadets boarded the NDCC Almirante Saboia. For third-year Cadet Lara Corrêa de Oliveira, the experience proved that women can cohabitate aboard.
Cadet Lara Corrêa told Diálogo that the operation allowed her to experience life at sea as a quartermaster officer. “We took part in exercises like Light Line Transfer, a training done between two vessels, in which a cable is shot over the bows of moving ships to transfer light cargo. In this case, two vessels approach each other, maintaining the same course and speed; then a cable is run between them so that their distance doesn't vary [it serves as a kind of yardstick] and then cargo transfer can begin, using a trolley,” she explained.
“My main takeaway from Aspirantex was stronger leadership by example, because of the contact we had with the officers and crew,” Cadet Lara Corrêa said. She also participated in exercises such as replenishment at sea, accident response, helicopter flights, and lectures with officers aboard.
During their days at sea, the fourth-year cadets followed the routine of an officer of their specialty. Cadet Rodrigo José Tavares Cavalcante worked alongside the ship’s safety officer. “A mock fire in a certain compartment was simulated. After the person who discovers the incident reports it—whether there are any injuries and where the mock fire occurred—several safety procedures are implemented until the fire is extinguished. As the name suggests, the ship's safety officer controls the situation and requires the participation of the safety teams, who need to be well trained to carry out everything to keep the ship’s personnel and materiel protected,” he said.
“Aspirantex makes it possible for students to have early contact with life on board, going through the privations of life at sea and getting a taste of seamanship—things that aren’t learned in the classroom,” Cadet Rodrigo Tavares told Diálogo. “Our main takeaway is that we always need to be ready for anything, not just the anticipated. And that’s why we need a lot of dedication, commitment, and love for the profession,” he concluded.