Southern Vanguard 22 and Why It Matters: Hundreds of U.S. troops are in Brazil working with their local counterparts in what is the largest deployments of U.S. troops in the country.
The two militaries are participating in Southern Vanguard 22, an annual exercise and one of the largest events in the southern hemisphere.
Southern Vanguard 22
Southern Vanguard is an annual tactical and operational exercise supported by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and executed by the U.S. Army to establish and enhance readiness, security, and interoperability between the U.S. and Latin American militaries.
More than 1,000 troops from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and the Brazilian 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry Brigade got together during this year’s iteration and worked in air assault operations.
This is the second iteration of the exercise, with the inaugural event taking place last year in Chile and the troops involved focusing on mountain warfare training.
“Southern Vanguard 22 builds upon a partnership between Brazil and the U.S., and we aim to continue this exercise until at least 2028. It is important that we execute this mission because in the event of a humanitarian crisis or natural disaster, we’ll already have the experience working alongside the Brazilian forces, and we have that established trust and respect,” Major General William L. Thigpen, the commanding general of U.S. Army South, said in a press release.
Major Milton Maddox, Army South’s officer who took the lead in planning the training event, highlighted the importance of teamwork and good communication within and between the two militaries.
“This exercise has been in the making since October of 2020, and it could only happen with the combined staff planning of Army South and our Brazilian counterparts. Both of our nations understand the complexities of an operation of this scale and nature, and in our planning, we worked to understand how each other operate to ensure mission success,” the planning officer said.
From the Brazilian point of view, the exercise was a good opportunity to strengthen bonds built decades ago.
“Our armies have a rich history together, and Southern Vanguard 22 is just one more way to strengthen the partnership that was sampled in World War II. Exercises like this fortify regional security because our forces learn how to operate as one,” Sergeant Victor Rodrigues. a Brazilian Army combat training center observer, controller, and trainer,” stated.
The exercise comes a few weeks after U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited Brazil.
Air Assault vs Airborne
A cousin of airborne operations, the air assault concept employs helicopters to ferry large numbers of troops in an area. Whereas airborne operations have a strategic hue, air assault operations are restricted to the range of the helicopters, limiting their strategic value. For example, the 82nd Airborne Division or the 75th Ranger Regiment can parachute anywhere in the world within a few hours and deal with strategic issues. Conversely, the 101st Airborne Division—an air assault unit that has kept the “airborne” designation in honor of its illustrious past—is a great option for in-theater operations, such as Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002.
Now 1945s National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist and military expert specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.