Different Terrain, Common Tactics in Brazil
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MANAUS, Brazil, March 9, 2004 You'd be hard-pressed to find similarities between the Amazonian jungles of Brazil and the mountains of Afghanistan, but there are some.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, kicked off a trip to South America with a stop here in the capital of Amazonia. During a briefing from Brazilian Maj. Gen. Eduardo Dias da Costa Villa Boas, the commander of army forces in the region, Myers was struck by the similarity of tactics the coalition uses in Afghanistan and tactics the Brazilian government is using in this far-flung region of the country.
The Brazilian government faces many problems in the region. The primary one is the government control of the region is weak. Villa Boas said that in many areas, the only government entities are soldiers.
The region borders Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. Traffickers use the region as a transit point for drugs, weapons, money and to smuggle other goods such as precious gems, gold and tropical wood. The border area is sparsely populated, but it contains an abundance of resources. Guerillas from neighboring states come to the region for supplies and safety.
The army in the region faces a formidable task of working with indigenous people and curbing environmental damage to the Amazon rain forest. In 2006 another brigade will be added to the command, increasing the number of soldiers patrolling an area half the size of the continental United States.
The Brazilian army's mission is to provide logistics support, instill support for the central government and episodically support the federal police.
One tactic the army is using is to place platoons at strategic locations in the bush. A small number of commissioned and noncommissioned officers man the locations. The soldiers serving with them are from the area. The platoons provide a point of contact, as well as health care and other necessities, to the region's people.
At the same time, the platoon is patrolling the area and ensuring undesirable elements stay out.
Myers said the platoons remind him of the provincial reconstruction teams the coalition has in place in Afghanistan. There, a small cadre of military and civilian experts provides resources for local Afghans. A platoon of coalition soldiers or soldiers of the Afghan National Army provides security.
The PRTs work with the local Afghans on health care, veterinary care, water projects, road building and maintenance and medical evacuation help. American civil affairs soldiers almost all reservists are at the core of the teams, but service members from all branches are members if their talent is needed. In addition, governmental and nongovernmental agencies can lager in with the PRTs.
While Myers met with Brazilian army personnel, he made a pitch for a joint culture. A joint command in Amazonia would concentrate military resources and give commanders more tools to work with, he said. Its remoteness makes it a good test case for the entire Brazilian military, he said.
Myers is using the trip to further military-to-military contacts between the United States and Brazil. He said it was important for the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere to keep the lines of communication open. Myers will have further discussions with Defense Minister Jose Viegas Filho and with Army Gen. Romulo Bini Pereiro, the chief of defense forces. He will also meet with Gen. Jorge Armando Felix, the institutional security minister.
Besides military-to-military cooperation, Myers will discuss progress in the war on terrorism and intelligence cooperation with the Brazilian leaders.