Brazilian Admiral Assumes Command Of UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force

The Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has been under Brazilian leadership since 2011, has a new commander since February 26. Admiral Flávio Macedo Brasil is in charge of the mission and has about 1,000 military personnel originating from six countries under his command: Greece, Turkey, Germany, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, in addition to the Brazilians. Adm. Brasil, who will be in the position for one year, until February 2016, is the fifth Brazilian commander of UNIFIL. During this period, he will work together with the ninth and tenth Brazilian contingents in Lebanon – the troops, as well as the flagship, will remain on the mission for six months. In total, there are 264 Navy personnel participating in each contingent of the international peacekeeping force. The transfer of command took place in the Port of Beirut, in a ceremony headed by UNIFIL’s Force Commander, Italian general Luciano Portolano. Flávio Brasil received the position from Walter Eduardo Bombarda, who commanded the Maritime Task Force since February 2014. Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, chief of Joint Operations of the Department of Defense represented Brazilian Defense Minister Jaques Wagner and General José Carlos de Nardi, chief of the Brazilian General Staff of the Armed Forces (EMCFA) at the ceremony in Beirut. Initially created in 1978 during the Lebanese Civil War – which also involved Palestinians and Israelis–the United Nation’s peace mission had the support of the Maritime Task Force in 2006, after Israel invaded southern Lebanon to combat the Shiite group Hezbollah. After being led by Germany and a European group from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy, UNIFIL has been under Brazilian command since 2011. Ever since, it has been up to the Brazilian Navy to appoint the mission’s commander and also the flagship of the international squadron. Admiral Walter Bombarda transferred UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force command to Admiral Flávio Brasil during a ceremony in the Port of Beirut. (Photo: UNIFIL) Admiral Walter Bombarda transferred UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force command to Admiral Flávio Brasil during a ceremony in the Port of Beirut. (Photo: UNIFIL) Patrolling The radius of maritime operation which the Brazilian Military is responsible for consists of 205 km of coastline. “Our role is to control the territorial waters of Lebanon, as well as their adjacent waters in order to prevent any illegal weapons from entering that country”, explained Adm. Brasil. According to the commander, blocking the entrance of illicit weapons is the mission’s primary objective, and the incidence of illegal weapons in the country has declined since Brazil took the lead of the mission. “The second task, which is just as important, is to train the Lebanese Armed Forces so that they can take over the responsibilities that are currently performed by the Maritime Task Force in the future”, added Adm. Brasil. The maritime operation in Lebanon relies on the participation of foreign Navies, which employ seven ships in the mission –all of which now fall under Adm. Brasil’s command. Currently, in addition to Brazilian Military personnel, UNIFIL is composed of 48 Greek, 105 Turkish, 123 German, 322 Bengali, and 103 Indonesian personnel. Challenges UNIFIL is the only UN peace mission in a maritime environment composed of military troops and ships from different countries. For the admiral, commanding a multinational force is one of the most challenging aspects of his new position: “There are cultural, religious, and operational differences. The way Navies operate is very similar, but there are differences that must be respected,” he said, emphasizing how this kind of experience is enriching for a military man. “This is a source of pride, because there are few who have the opportunity to command a multinational task force,” he highlighted. The Lebanese territory is considered a delicate area because it borders Israel and Syria, thus being a country surrounded by ethnic, religious, and territorial conflicts. For this reason, the admiral believes that its important to maintain missions like this in the region. “We understand how important this type of operation is for the Middle East, it’s something that ends up getting through to everyone.” Training The military personnel chosen for the mission went through a selection process that began in September 2014 in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro. They were submitted to training and exercises determined by the UN’s Department of Peace Operations. The exercises were composed of a series of stages based on previous missions. “They were rooted in the prior experience of the personnel in the mission, who were able to communicate their difficulties and show us the challenges we will face. It was also a preparation to understand the scenario, the geopolitical and religious situation in Lebanon”, highlighted Adm. Brasil. There are two types of training, one for the crew and one for the General Staff, which is the mission’s command. “They are two different trainings. The crew’s is very specific to the operational and tactical tasks that will be performed there. The staff’s also includes cultural issues, such as the language”, added the admiral.
Date Published: 
Thursday, March 19, 2015
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