MACAPA, Brazil — Forty-four Soldiers from the New York National Guard, working alongside active-duty Army and Brazilian Army Soldiers, recently concluded three weeks of training in Northern Brazil from Nov. 1 to 16, 2023.
Exercise Southern Vanguard 24 brought Soldiers from the 258th Field Artillery Battalion, 466th Medical Company, Area Support, the 133rd Composite Support Company, the 53rd Digital Liaison Detachment and 138th Public Affairs Detachment to the cities of Belem, Macapa and Oiapoque.
The New York National Guard Soldiers learned how to survive in the Brazilian jungle and participated in and supported tactical operations and training while providing medical support to Soldiers during the exercise.
New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Isabel Smith, director of joint staff for the New York National Guard, explained that this training operation helped prepare both countries for rapid deployment and improved readiness in response to crisis or contingency.
“Exercising together allows our armies to increase interoperability and demonstrates a shared commitment,” Smith said.
New York has worked alongside Brazil through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program since 2019, executing bilateral military and civilian engagements in order to increase partner capacity and capability, Smith said.
The New York Guardsmen trained alongside Soldiers from U.S. Army South, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 7th Special Forces Group and the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, as well as over 1,000 Brazilian army personnel assigned to Brazil’s 52nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Brigade.
New York Army National Guard Maj. Shelly Respecki, commander of the 466th, said she believed that the opportunity to learn about the jungle from the Brazilian Army was an invaluable experience from a medical perspective.
The unit provided medical support and supply throughout the exercise and treated a variety of injuries such as heat-related illnesses, environmental threats and emergency trauma, Respecki said.
“The course allows our Soldiers to understand what threats and risks are involved with training in the jungle,” said Respecki. “We’ll be better able to treat the participants knowing what they’re going through and how to survive in the jungle if needed to potentially sit on a patient.”
While they learned to operate in a new environment, they found a sense of familiarity in some of their missions as well, the Soldiers said.
Guardsmen from the 53rd Digital Liaison Detachment integrated with the 23rd Jungle Infantry Brigade’s staff section for the duration of the exercise to support operations.
The public affairs Soldiers from the 138th supported media relations in conjunction with Army South counterparts, according to Capt. Stephanie Fernadez, the detachment commander.
The four artillerymen from the 258th Field Artillery, spent a lot of time with Brazilian gunners, according to Capt. Anthony Migliore, the assistant battalion fire support officer for the 258th’s B. Battery.
“I spent most of my time at the gun-line yesterday and it was just like being back at A Battery or B Battery with the 258th," Migliore said.
He provided fires planning support for a scenario involving attacks on enemy objectives, during the exercise, Migliore said.
Spc. Myeonghyeon Chang, a water treatment specialist from the 133rd, said she got a lot of experience working in her specialty during the exercise.
“It’s been a really great experience for me, especially since this is my first time being in a Latin American country,” she said.
Chang said she and others from the 133rd provided pure water for both Brazilian and American exercise participants. They also got the change to cross-trained on the 7th Special Forces Group’s water purification equipment.
Ultimately, Southern Vanguard provided Soldiers with more than just training, as they returned to New York having formed new relationships and fresh perspectives, and also got a chance to experience Brazilian culture, the Soldiers said.
“I had a lot of opportunities to learn about their culture, language and how the Brazilian Army works and operates. The food was definitely great too,” Chang said.