The Brazilian Navy’s (MB, in Portuguese) Fleet Marine Squad (FFE, in Portuguese) deployed to the state of Goiás, in central Brazil, to conduct Operation Formosa, the largest exercise of the Brazilian marines’ training cycle. The exercise brought together 1,700 service members from Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States to the Brazilian Army’s Formosa Training Camp (CIF, in Portuguese), September 21-October 3, 2018.
Operation Formosa seeks to maintain marines’ readiness capabilities. As such, marines simulate an amphibious operation with the use of weapons and combined assets from partner nation marines.
Although the exercise takes place in a dry climate region away from the ocean, CIF facilitates the use of land and air assets, as well as live fire. The camp is Brazil’s largest training center.
Participants fired about 5,000 shots from various weapons, including the ASTROS multiple rocket launcher, during 40 missions. Two A-4 Skyhawk fighter jets, two UH-15 Super Cougar and two UH-12 Esquilo helicopters, 50 tactical vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles participated in the exercise.
According to Brazilian Marine Corps Colonel Dirlei Donizette Codo, head of FFE Operations, the ocean was represented on a map to guide service members, but training procedures were followed from disembarkation. “All naval power is translated to land,” Col. Dirlei said. “We were able to improve coordination of combined exercises, which is essential for an amphibious operation.”
The 2018 edition of the exercise fulfilled its goal to train MB marines for readiness, Col. Dirlei said. “I am glad to be part of such efficient training with extremely motivated service members,” he said.
“Operation Formosa is essential to the marines’ training cycle, especially with regard to fire support coordination, and safety and synchronization of aircraft used,” said Colonel Luiggi Campany de Oliveira, head of the Brazilian Marine Corps (CFN, in Portuguese) General Command’s Doctrine department. “It took great coordination to enable the aircraft to fly safely while other weapons were being used.”
The participation of the Paraguayan and U.S. marines in the exercise was also very valuable. “Especially [that of] the U.S. marines, an elite troop that developed the most important doctrine. Everyone wins with this knowledge exchange,” said Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, commander of the Brazilian Navy.
U.S. marines help with training
According to Col. Luiggi, the U.S. marines improved weapons handling training with their experience. During the exercise, 15 U.S. service members conducted training workshops and participated in missions with the Brazilians.
U.S. Marine Corps Major James Richard Smith, who is part of a two-year exchange program with FFE, participated for the second time in Operation Formosa. The other U.S. participants were in Brazil for the first time. Maj. Smith told Diálogo that in 2018 the United States increased service members’ participation from the 2017 edition.
U.S. marines conducted seminars on automated operations and infantry techniques, and helped plan and execute tactical air operations. “We have a pilot on our team who specializes in this type of mission and took part in combined operations with aircraft with Brazilian service members,” Maj. Smith said. “This is a relevant topic when it comes to operating with different systems.”
U.S. marines also shared first-aid techniques, especially the use of a tourniquet, an essential technique that can save lives in conflict situations. “We have a lot of experience in real wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and this experience was shared during the workshops,” Maj. Smith said.
The U.S. marine officer highlighted the professionalism and training of his Brazilian counterparts. “It’s very important to learn and share information with such well-trained service members,” he said. “We have a good exchange with Brazil. The country frequently sends service members to the United States to participate in our exercises, and we are always present as well. This integration is very positive, especially when we need to work together.”
On October 3rd, the last day of the exercise, participants carried out an amphibious operation demonstration, with an overview of main activities conducted during the 15-day exercise. The simulations included maneuvers in hostile terrain; tactical first-aid; decontamination of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents; and identification and activation of explosive devices by the Explosive Devices Deactivation Group. “All weapons, explosives, and equipment used were real,” said Col. Dirlei.
Participants demonstrated combined exercises common in amphibious attacks, such as a parachute infiltration from the Reconnaissance Team, a unit from FFE’s Special Operations Battalion. An aerial attack from fixed-wing aircraft was also carried out. The Artillery Battalion performed a gun salute with its 105 mm L118 Light Gun howitzers and used the 12-vehicle Multiple Rocket Launcher Group, consisting of six launch vehicles, three ammunition support vehicles, one command and control vehicle, a meteorological vehicle, and a workshop vehicle, to dismantle enemy supplies.
Adm. Leal Ferreira pointed out the importance of the training for marines. “Amphibious operations are essential for marines and they demonstrated all the important phases in an exemplary fashion,” he told Diálogo. “Our marines are among the best in the world; additionally, the incentive and pride of belonging to such an exclusive team drives them to excel in the exercises and in real operations.”
The officer highlighted the logistics readiness such complex operations require. “We transport 144 military vehicles and more than 40 buses. Considering that the city of Formosa is 1,600 kilometers away from FFE headquarters, in Rio de Janeiro, the logistics improves our deployment skills,” he said. “In addition, we improve our capacity to operate away from base.”
CFN’s training cycle will conclude with Operation Dragon (Operação Dragão), which takes place in November, on Itaoca beach, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro. “It’s an exercise that complements Operation Formosa, favoring maritime operations without live fire for the safety of the population,” said Col. Dirlei.