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Chairman Tours Brazilian Amazon Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

IPIRANGA, Brazil, March 3, 2009 – A typical day at the office, or even on the road, usually doesn’t entail meeting a jaguar or eating grubs.

But it would if you were Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to the Amazon River in Brazil yesterday.

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim showed the chairman an unusual, but very informative, time during a visit with units of the Amazonia Military Command in Manaus, Tabatinga and this small outpost along Brazil’s border with Colombia.

Mullen visited the region because Brazil is a valued friend, and because “from a military perspective, this relationship is absolutely vital,” he said during a news conference in Manaus, the capital of Amazonia state.

The Amazonia Command had a full-honor welcome for the chairman, with all services represented. Part of the ceremony was a recitation of the Jungle Warrior Prayer, which includes the passage, “Give us from the forest: the sobriety to persist, the patience to ambush, the perseverance to survive and the faith to resist and win.” More than 200 servicemembers recited the prayer as part of the welcome to the chairman. At the end of the prayer, they yelled the word “selva,” Portuguese for “jungle.”

Jungle dominates everything in Amazonia. The state is four times the size of Texas, and except for a small portion of grass-covered plain called pampas in the north, it is almost entirely covered by rain forest. Almost half of the state’s 4 million residents live in Manaus.

The capital is where the Negro and Solimoes rivers come together to form the Amazon. The rivers are the main mode of transportation in the region, as roads are scarce. The Brazilian military patrols the rivers and the rain forest to protect the borders, contributing to local and national development and supporting law enforcement efforts. The command is more than just a warfighting endeavor; its troopers are soldiers, civil affairs personnel, engineers, counselors, environmental activists and protectors, and much else, a Brazilian government spokesman said.

Jungle is the heart of the command. U.S. Special Forces soldiers helped the Brazilians set up their Jungle School, a world-class facility near Manaus. The soldiers in the command are graduates of that school. Only about half of each class’s 45 students make it to graduation.

Instructors briefed Mullen on their school and brought along a friend -- a 4-year-old jaguar soldiers found after poachers killed its mother. The chairman petted the 150-pound cat and then was introduced to a water buffalo. The soldiers use the beasts to carry provisions. The animals are adapted to the conditions in the rain forest, and the soldiers could not maneuver without them, a spokesman said.

A motto of the command translates to “Our Strength Comes from the Jungle,” and the soldiers showed the chairman the river’s bounty. In addition to fruit, vegetables, nuts and berries, the soldiers had gathered coconut grubs. Eaten live, they are a good source of protein, the soldiers said.

The chairman flew aboard a Brazilian air force C-99 to Tabatinga, where he switched to a C-105A for the flight to the Special Border Platoon. Iparanga is more an airfield and outpost in the jungle than a village. The Brazilian military established the outpost in 1980 on the river separating Brazil and Colombia. Fighting smuggling and drugs, promoting development and keeping control of the border are the main missions. Helping are Brazilian navy gunboats that patrol the river, and the chairman got piped aboard one of them on the shore at Iparanga.

Before Mullen left, the soldiers marched past in his honor. And yes, they did march with their water buffalos.

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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

Related Sites:
State Department Background Note on Brazil

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Mullen Notes Importance of U.S. Relationship With Brazil

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