The Amazon forest is a peculiar environment, which stands out from most military operational settings. As such, the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) has an educational and training unit dedicated to preparing its professionals to work in this region: the Jungle Warfare Training Center (CIGS, in Portuguese), headquartered in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas.
Since 2016, CIGS offers its courses to foreigners who show increasing interest. “The most developed countries send troops to train on different types of terrain. They seek to keep their service members trained to work in various scenarios, with different characteristics,” said EB Lieutenant Colonel Alexandre Amorim de Andrade, head of CIGS’s education division. For instance, other countries’ armed forces conduct some courses in Alaska and the deserts of Africa.
“The CIGS course is renowned worldwide. This training exercise teaches us to live and fight in the jungle, with a high level of physical and technical difficulty,” said Paraguayan Army Second Lieutenant Miguel Herminio Tosatto Acosta, platoon commander of the special troops, in reference to what led him to take the course. The service member was among the students who attended the last edition of the International Jungle Operations Course (CIOS, in Portuguese), conducted October 11-November 30, 2018.
A total of 34 foreign service members signed up to attend CIOS 2018. Only 28 candidates from 14 countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay were able to demonstrate the required physical aptitude. The rigorous requirements, in terms of candidates’ techniques and physical abilities, are tied to the concern for the service member’s individual safety and that of the group.
Information on how to prepare before applying for the course is available on CIOS’s website. Some material is available eight months prior, including nutritional instructions, physical training plans, and videos demonstrating techniques used during CIOS.
Applicants take a test in their country proctored by Brazilian military attachés or their own military organization. If they meet the preliminary requirements, they are invited to participate in CIOS’s deployment week. Over the course of three or four days, they undergo more tests, now inside CIGS’s facilities, an area of about 1,200 square kilometers within the Amazon forest. Should applicants pass this phase, they are admitted to the course.
From theory to practice
Before the three phases of the course kick off—life in the jungle, special techniques, and operations—future jungle warriors go through doctrinal interaction. This is an opportunity for them to learn about doctrines from the other participating nations’ armed forces. “We present the students some military problems for which they have to propose solutions according to their countries’ doctrine,” said Lt. Col. Amorim, who also coordinates the course. The Brazilian doctrine is explained when students operate in the jungle.
For 2nd Lt. Tosatto Acosta, the cultural differences initially presented a challenge. “However, when the course started, the differences disappeared, and we became a single body, seeking to complete the mission.”
Participants rest for one day before beginning the jungle phase. The objective of the first phase is to show students the characteristics of the operational environment in the Amazon. In one week, they learn how to find food and water, start a fire, build a shelter, avoid and treat tropical diseases, and find their bearings in the forest.
Then comes the special techniques phase, the most challenging, according to 2nd Lt. Tosatto Acosta. “Exercises were one after the other, with few resting periods. This phase requires intense focus and physical endurance.”
During this phase students learn and practice specific techniques and tactics for jungle combat, such as moving across longer distances in the forest—between 10 to 15 km—swimming in rivers, and using vessels and helicopters. Shooting modules installed in the jungle were a new aspect to CIOS 2018. The idea was to expose students to the difficulties of operating a weapon and shooting in an environment with scores of obstacles.
The special techniques phase lasted 12 days. The remaining 15 days of the course were dedicated to the operations phase. During this phase, students are to apply what they learned and practiced during the course. “In this phase they can combine the different doctrines to plan and execute the missions. This combination is enriching and interesting,” said Lt. Col. Amorim.
The number of nocturnal activities increased in the last edition, which in turn improved the operations phase. Until the 70s it was believed that service members should not travel in the jungle at night, Lt. Col. Amorim said. “With technological improvements and new techniques, tactics, and procedures we can successfully execute these operations. This is significant because it allows for greater secrecy to catch the enemy off-guard.”
The 28 students who succeeded in the three phases participated in the 133rd Jungle Warrior Machete Granting Ceremony, on November 30, 2018. At the event, CIGS officers presented each of the new warriors with a machete, a jungle tool for survival and combat that for those service members, symbolizes knowledge, success, and brotherhood.