Brazilian Army General Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, the logistics commander of the Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym), got straight to the point during his opening remarks at the Humanitarian Logistics Symposium (SILOGEM, per its Portuguese acronym): “We all know how precarious the infrastructure in the Amazon is, and of the lack of government presence in that region. Activities like this seek solutions for overcoming such challenges and preventing improvised assistance to the populations affected by disasters.”
The general was referring to AMAZONLOG, an interagency humanitarian logistics exercise that will be held in South America for the first time from November 6th to 13th, in the Amazon region—specifically in the tri-border area between Brazil (Tabatinga), Colombia (Leticia), and Peru (Santa Rosa)—and for which SILOGEM served as a kick-off. In addition to these three countries’ militaries and the logistical support provided by the United States, the exercise, directed by the EB’s Logistics Command—currently led by Gen. Theophilo—will have observers from 17 partner nations with experience in humanitarian operations, including Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
“The United States, with its considerable experience in large-scale disasters and, consequently, in humanitarian aid, was the ‘father’ of the exercise in terms of knowledge,” Gen. Theophilo clarified. “The U.S. personnel are bringing their civil defense and damage-mitigation experience from the large hurricanes that happen regularly in the U.S., but not with troops — unlike Colombia and Peru, both of which share borders with Brazil in that area,” he added. “What we want is to create a tiny embryo so that it multiplies and is really the fruit of a large humanitarian operations brigade that will act during public emergencies. Therefore, our collaboration with all of the nations concerned is extremely important.” The idea, the general clarified, is for AMAZONLOG to be repeated every year, preferably in different countries for each edition of the exercise.
SILOGEM, held from September 26th to 28th at the Vasco Vasques Convention Center in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, had close to 2,000 people participating. The event was divided into presentations by Brazilian and foreign military, government, and defense industry speakers, and round tables after every three or four presentations.
The first SILOGEM seminar was offered by Brazilian Army General César Augusto Nardi de Souza. The chief of Joint Operations at the Brazilian Ministry of Defense spoke about subsequent actions in support of the civilian population, an issue of fundamental importance since the main purpose of AMAZONLOG is to train service members and civilian agencies to work together in a joint response to a potential disaster in an isolated area. “We are exploring our experience in joint humanitarian operations among our three branches, to conduct operations in the border environment,” he said during his presentation.
In turn, Michael J. Eddy, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Brazil, commented on the importance of preventing the worst effects of disasters. “It is estimated that every dollar invested in disaster mitigation is worth five to 10 times more, in terms of the cost of aiding the victims. Hence the importance of governments, even with their bureaucratic hurdles, being prepared to deal with such situations.”
Lieutenant General Jorge Céliz Kuong, the chief of the Peruvian Army’s 5th Division, began the second day of SILOGEM with a seminar series onthe support provided to civilians affected by drug trafficking and terrorism. Lt. Gen. Céliz told Diálogo that Peru will participate in AMAZONLOG with at least 50 service members, both officers and enlisted, who will, “carry out military patrols in the jungle. Specifically, during this exercise we will undertake humanitarian assistance operations. However, the most important element is to share experiences with the rest of the participating nations.”
Other issues addressed during SILOGEM included earthquakes in Haiti and in Chile, frequent floods and droughts in the Amazon (in northern Peru and in the Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas), Haitian migration to South America (especially Brazil, Colombia, and Peru), demobilization of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the more recent Venezuelan migration to Brazil. “These are all examples of instability situations that can have negative consequences if there is no planning or appropriate control measures,” Gen. Theophilo stated in an interview with Diálogo.
A parallel Materiel Exhibition showcased stands from the U.S. and Brazilian militaries as well as from security and defense manufacturers. Dual-use materials, particularly those used in humanitarian support operations, were exhibited. “These companies showed products and solutions that will be used during AMAZONLOG 2017,” said Major General André de Soza Rolim, a budget planning advisor for the EB’s Logistics Command. “That’s why holding this exhibition at the same time is important. And it’s also hugely important that other interested companies get the Brazilian Ministry of Defense to register them as strategic companies, so they can expand and promote the Brazilian defense industry. AMAZONLOG will emphasize the issue of humanitarian defense, and companies with related products can offer them to the armed forces,” he concluded.
A good example of one of the products showcased at the exhibit is a water purification system designed by the Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC), which the United States will provide for use during the exercise. “We will provide compact water filters, which produce up to 120 gallons of water per hour when utilizing fresh water sources, which is the case with AMAZONLOG,” explained Doug Hedberg, the assistant director of TARDEC. “However, we can produce clean water from a variety of sources, including saline or extremely polluted waters. For other exercises, if this is the case, we can modify and upgrade the equipment.”
Gen. Theophilo said that SILOGEM exceeded his expectations. “We now await AMAZONLOG itself. I expect this exercise to become a model for natural-disaster situations in which humanitarian aid will be needed by local or displaced populations, as well as by civilians and service members who may be working in the affected region,” he said. “For Brazil, it will be an opportunity to test the new military logistics of our land forces within the strategic objectives of EB, demonstrating the Brazilian government’s capacity for carrying out humanitarian operations in the regional sphere, gaining knowledge, integrating tactics and operations, exchanging information, learning about new technologies, strengthening its ties with academia, and bringing services to that border region, which is so important to Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.”