NEW ORLEANS --
Members of the Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais (Brazilian Marine Corps) arrived at the Marine Corps Forces, South and Marine Corps Forces, Reserve headquarters here to take part in the annual Operational Naval Infantry Committee with U.S. Marine Corps counterparts from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, 2022.
The ONIC is a key forum for leaders and planners from the two Marine Corps’ to discuss and reaffirm mutual security objectives and plan future security cooperation engagements. Building off previous year’s events, the planners seek to solidify the bi-lateral training schedules for the next two years and set a path forward on engagements over the next five years.
“The pandemic may have slowed us, but it didn’t stop us. Now it’s time to really move forward,” said Contra-Almirante Nelio De Almeida, rear admiral, retired, of the Brazilian Marine Corps referring to changes to conferences and exercises due to the pandemic.
This is the first time a Brazilian Marine Corps delegation has visited the New Orleans headquarters since MARFORSOUTH transitioned from Doral, Florida, last year. The re-location occurred after U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David G. Bellon was appointed the dual-hatted commander of both MARFORSOUTH and MARFORRES.
“The advantage these two commands have under one commander is a simplified process to get after our mutual objectives. In the past, when I first came into MARFORSOUTH in 2017, anything we wanted to do, we had to take that back to the Service level and compete with Marine Corps requirements from across the globe in order to get a unit to come to Brazil or to have a unit host Brazilians in the United States,” Bellon said. “Now I have 33,000 Marines under MARFORRES; squadrons, battalions, detachments, and platoons that are already formed and that we must train. With this comes the authority to receive and deploy those forces, so we don’t have to ask anybody’s permission.”
"One of the things our senior leadership challenged our staff to do is to discuss new ideas, new concepts, especially talking about the way the Marines can influence the sea and maritime operations.” Capitão de Fragata Ricardo Bragança, commander and assistant operations officer for the Brazilian Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force
The ONIC focused on how the two Marine Corps can work together to increase interoperability, strengthen the partnership, and achieve force readiness at the same time. During the scheduled events, planners also had in depth discussions about the U.S. Marine Corps Force Design 2030 initiative, Brazil’s ground and maritime initiatives, as well as emerging naval concepts that will directly impact both forces.
“One of the things our senior leadership challenged our staff to do is to discuss new ideas, new concepts, especially talking about the way the Marines can influence the sea and maritime operations,” Capitão de Fragata Ricardo Bragança, commander, assistant operations officer for the Brazilian Marine Corps Fleet Marine Force, said. “I think we have many things to discuss and exchange regarding our way of operating in the Amazon area and in the sea."
Bellon addressed the Brazilian delegation emphasizing relationships and the importance of partnerships stating, “You’re a highly professional force. We need your help as we are getting back in the water business, back on the water and back in small boats. We haven’t done that in almost 30 years and you’re experts in it.”
Brazil’s unique location and vast coastline lends to their “Blue Amazon” strategy which is a layered approach to Brazil's maritime responsibilities including the military, economic, and environmental aspects. This concept was a focal point of the discussions during the ONIC and has particular importance to the Brazilian Navy and Marine Corps who serve as the country's maritime force to ensure the integrity of Brazil's waters as well as protection to the overall sovereignty of the South Atlantic Ocean.
“Brazil has been a leader in the region, and even farther abroad, for many years. Not just on the military side, but diplomatically, economically, and as a leader in UN missions,” said Yetta Ziolkowski, Foreign Policy Advisor, MARFORSOUTH. “Brazil’s efforts in Africa have aided in the increased security in the South Atlantic and have significantly supported the safety, security, and prosperity of their African partners.”
Photo by Sgt. Juan Carpanzano
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David G. Bellon, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, speaks at the annual Operational Naval Infantry Committee at the Marine Corps Support Facility in New Orleans Nov. 29, 2022. The ONIC is a key forum for leaders and planners from the two Marine Corps’ to discuss and reaffirm mutual security objectives and plan future security cooperation engagements.
Due to the role Brazil plays in and across the Atlantic, representatives from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa were present at the ONIC to discuss security and partnerships in that region and to look for opportunities to support each other’s efforts.
“From an operational perspective, we completely acknowledge Brazil’s interest in Guinea and the Gulf of Guinea,” Bellon said. “Our strategic interests align there, and there are mutual interests in the sovereignty of national waters and freedom of the seas, so we’re pleased to be involved.”
Leveraging their expertise not only in maritime operations, an additional discussion point throughout the event was future exchange opportunities. Last year, the U.S. Marine Corps started an enduring plan to send forces to train alongside their Brazilian counterparts in one of the most complex jungle environments in the world, the Amazon. With a focus on exchanging best practices and enhancing jungle skills, the U.S. Marines are reciprocating the opportunity with plans to bring Brazilian Marines to the United States annually for a major combined arms live-fire exercise; the ONIC provided the perfect venue to advance these exchange plans.
“The ONIC and these staff talks are important to Brazilian Marines,” Bragança said. “We hope in the future we can not only continue this, but improve from time to time. It is a great way to talk and improve relations between the forces.”
“At the end of this, we came out a much greater team,” Bellon said. He continued to say that, regardless of change, what will endure is professional, mutual respect based on the common admiration of our values and standards.