JBSA Ft. Sam Houston, Texas –
Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations are often engineer-intensive. In such cases, U.S. Army South and its partners in the Western Hemisphere may opt to provide extensive military engineer support to civilian authorities. It is critical to establish theater security cooperation in the area of military engineering to enable this assistance.
As part of army-to-army staff talks agreements with the Brazilian Army, the Army South Engineer Directorate facilitated a key leader engagement at Fort Belvoir, Va. on Nov. 18, promoting technical interoperability between the two armies. Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda, Brazilian head of the Department of Engineering and Construction, served as the lead of the Brazilian Army delegation.
Hosted by Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the engagement included senior military and government officials from PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support, the New York National Guard (Brazil’s State Partner), U.S. Army Reserve, and U.S. Army South.
The event coordinator Maj. Dexter Buchanan, Army South engineer country planner, said “that USACE and ARSOUTH will collaborate with partners to provide assistance through specially trained teams who rapidly respond to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or other disasters, whenever DOD is tasked to assist in disaster response within the region.” The military side of engineering includes keeping traffic routes open, which may include float-bridge assets.
The major highlight of the engagement saw the 299th Multi-Role Bridge Company (Army Reserve) transport, assemble and operate ribbon rafts as a float bridge during a river-crossing operation.
“Reserve capabilities to construct temporary bridges opens roadways for emergency and medical traffic as well as other transportation assets supporting points of distribution for food, water, and medical supplie,” said Maj. Scott Sparrow, from Army South’s Army Reserve Engagement Cell.
Earlier this year rivers in the Brazilian Amazon region rose to near-record levels after heavy rains, flooding small towns while forcing Brazil’s military to conduct rescue and supply operations in those areas. The demonstration reinforced the importance of having the right engineer capabilities to support evacuation of seriously ill or injured patients to locations where hospital care or outpatient services are available.
“We have learned a lot through this visit,” Arruda said. “It was very productive and very important for the Brazilian Army.”
In the end, Army South engineers recognized the event as a model for multi-lateral cooperation that leads to engineered solutions for our shared risk from disasters. Col. Frank Hopkins, Army South engineer director, summarized the engagement as another commitment between the U.S. and Brazilian engineers.
“Together we achieve more,” Hopkins said. “We are winning together; we expect to remain great partners for both technical and tactical engineering endeavors with the Brazilian Army well into the future.”