Brazilian officer joins U.S. Army South staff
March 27, 2008
For the first time in its existence, U.S. Army South has a foreign officer on its staff.
Lt. Col. Raul Rodrigues de Oliveira, a Brazilian cavalry officer and UH-60 pilot, began his first official day of work Monday as a Foreign Liaison Officer at U.S. Army South, the Army component of U.S. Southern Command. A 1987 graduate of Brazil's Agulhas Negras Military Academy, his Brazilian military training includes the airborne parachutist course, the navy's helicopter pilot course, the army's combat pilot course, the command and general staff course and the aviation advanced course. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army's UH-60 aviation qualification and instructor pilot courses at Fort Rucker, as well as the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth.
And if that's not impressive enough, he has a law degree from Taubate University and speaks four languages: English, French and Spanish in addition to his native tongue of Portuguese.
"I try to, anyway," jokes de Oliveira, when asked about his language proficiency. "I'm still learning Portuguese."
He says that Brazil's army officers are encouraged to learn other languages, including English, Spanish, French and even Mandarin Chinese, a reflection of Brazil's growing role on the world stage. In addition to leading the U.N.'s stabilization mission in Haiti, Brazil has sent peacekeepers and observers abroad to places like Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cyprus, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia and East Timor.
De Oliveira himself served 11 months as an operations officer in the Military Observer Mission in Ecuador and Peru (MOMEP) and spent three years in Brazil's 4th Army Aviation Battalion, flying helicopter missions over the Amazon Basin as a company commander and intelligence officer.
A battalion command may be in his near future, but first, he says, "I hope to contribute to strengthening the relations between my country and my army and the United States," a hope he shares with the U.S. Army South commander, Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber.
"I want us to be a western-hemisphere, international organization, and the addition of Lt. Col. Oliveira is a huge step forward in that direction," said Huber, who often cites Brazil as one of his top priorities as commander.
"We do a lot with Brazil," says Maj. Charles "Chip" W. Nolan, the Southern Cone Team Chief for the International Military Affairs office and de Oliveira's sponsor at U.S. Army South. "We have enough work down there that I think he'll be fairly busy. Even though I spent a year and a half down there and we have an Army section chief in Brasilia, having an actual member of the Brazilian military here will be huge."
Among his many responsibilities as a FLO, de Oliveira will help coordinate a wide range of activities between U.S. Army South and the Brazilian army, to include joint and combined tactical exercises that include Brazilian military forces and regional initiatives such as the Conference of American Armies, a forum that promotes interoperability among the militaries of the hemisphere. He will also serve as a kind of "cultural ambassador" to the U.S. Army South staff.
"He will be a walking role model to all of us," says Huber, who encourages his staff to study Spanish and Portuguese and to learn more about the rich cultural diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean.
De Oliveira is the first of several FLOs who will join the staff of U.S. Army South this year and next. A Chilean army officer arrives in July, and others are expected to follow as the details are finalized with partner armies in the region.