The Fifth CISM Military World Games: A Security Challenge for a Huge International Event

By: Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro

The success of the fifth Conseil Internationale du Sport Militaire (CISM) Military World Games, conducted in July 2011 in several cities of Rio de Janeiro State, demonstrated Brazil's ability to provide security for a massive sporting event. The 2011 Games involved 6,000 athletes from 114 countries who are members of the military; these events are held every four years as part of CISM's efforts to fulfill its motto: "Friendship Through Sport."

Brazil prepared for more than two years to provide security for the Military World Games, which have grown to be the third-largest sporting event of the world, following only the Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup. The outcome was a solid demonstration of Brazil's sporting and security competence, particularly within its armed forces. (The Brazilian athletic delegation to the Games also turned in an outstanding performance, earning first place, with 114 medals: 45 gold, 33 silver and 36 bronze).

The Brazilian Army Eastern Military Command (CML/EB) was put in charge of the Games' security through a presidential directive transmitted by the Minister of Defense. The Commandant of the 1st Army Division was designated as the Security Executive Coordinator (CES), and he established an Operations Coordination Center involving personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, and social communication cells. Furthermore, a justice advisory team was established. The division commander's maneuver elements were two infantry brigades—the Parachute Infantry Brigade and the 9th Motorized Infantry Brigade—both based in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Security at the World GamesFor preventing and combating terrorism, the CES was given operational control of a Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) established by the Commander of the Brazilian Army Special Operations Brigade. The JSOTF included the following elements from the Brazilian Army Special Operations Brigade: the Counterterrorism Detachment from the 1st Special Forces Battalion, the 1st Commandos Actions Company from the 1st Commandos Actions Battalion, elements from the Special Operations Support Battalion, and the 1st Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Platoon. In addition, maneuver, attack, and reconnaissance helicopters from all the institutions involved were present and ready, with crews trained for special air operations. The Brazilian Navy supplied elements of the Rescue and Recovery Special Group from the Combat Divers Group; also included in the security effort were elements of the Rescue and Recovery Special Group from the Marines Special Operations Battalion.

From the Department of Federal Police came elements of the Tactical Operations Command, and resources from the Special Police Operations Battalion of the State of Rio de Janeiro Military Police also joined in providing security. The Civilian Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro provided SWAT teams from its Special Resources Coordination.

Under the leadership of the Brazilian Army Special Operations Brigade, the JSOTF developed tactical exercises on the ground for both assault tactical teams and sniper teams. During the Games, these teams were stealthily dispersed at strategic points in Rio de Janeiro State, ready around the clock to be deployed to specific objectives in both proactive and reactive situations.

The Military World Games were a great test of the Brazilian security structure's operational capability. Like other recent events, including the South American/Arab Countries Conference Summit (2005), the Special Operations Brigade's field tactical exercise Black October 2010, and the visits of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011, the World Games provided many useful lessons.

Lessons Learned

The lessons learned from the security operation surrounding the Military Games, and from several other operations on the streets and favelas (slums) of large Brazilian cities, can be useful for any country considering military operations against irregular forces in urban terrain. Some of those lessons are detailed here.

A. In the "favelas," the streets are extremely narrow and lack signage. Buildings are very close to each other, severely restricting observation and firing fields. Designating targets is a hard task. In general, the topography is extremely irregular, and combatants in higher places gain an overwhelming advantage.

B. Commanders at all levels must understand the human dimension of the population in the area. Most residents are good citizens who do not have links to drug trafficking and work outside the operational area, using various transportation means such as motorcycles and vans. Because they fear retaliatory actions from the gang members after the Army leaves the area, residents usually hesitate to provide information. In general, there is no empathy with the law enforcement agencies (LEA), but the Army is accepted. It is critical to identify and meet community leaders.

C. The Army should not identify drug trafficking gangs as the enemy; it should want to avoid the appearance, in the eyes of the public, that its operations are being conducted in a context of conventional warfare. Therefore, gangs are better identified as opposition forces or "forças adversas."

D. The opposition forces have great power to intimidate the local population with their fire- power, which includes automatic rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and hand grenades. They often employ children to deliver drugs and to get information about troop movements; use caches to hide weapons and ammunition; and communicate with cell phones, small radios, fireworks, and visual signs. When gang members find themselves at a disadvantage, they try to blend in with the local population, and in critical situations they may use the population as a shield. More and more, these forces are employing urban guerrilla tactics, techniques and procedures.

E. Actions against criminal gangs in large cities are basically urban operations, and success depends primarily on small unit effectiveness and efficiency. Often, there is decentralization of actions down to the squad or team level. This type of action requires well-trained, disciplined soldiers and exceptional leaders at all levels who are capable of maintaining high moral standards. Rifle marksmanship during the day and night (when angles and distances differ), small-unit tactics (particularly in close combat), and effective communications are critical issues. Urban operations require special weapons and ammunition (including nonlethal) and tools for breaching and entering buildings. Close combat to clear buildings and houses is the norm. Sniper activity is intense, so passive and active measures must be established to counter snipers. Machine gun drills and fire control are absolutely critical. Light mechanized forces are effective because of their ability to move quickly to isolate opposition forces, control highways and main avenues, and attack decisive points. If needed, they are also useful for fire support in close combat, and can have great psychological effect.

F. Commanders must establish rules of engagement (ROE) and rules for the escalation of force to avoid collateral damage and casualties among civilians. Distinguishing opposition force combatants from civilian noncombatants is a very difficult but vital task. Even while displaying an aggressive attitude against opposition forces, the security troops must show respectful behavior toward the local population.

G. Specific demands are made on intelligence preparation. Terrain is described in terms of lines of communications, the urban pattern, and building structure. Civilian concentrations and critical infrastructure must be studied. Intelligence data collection about the opposition forces is an essential task. Less ELINT and SIGINT and more HUMINT is the rule. Counterintelligence is also extremely relevant. Each soldier must be a sensor. The best source of information is the "bad guy" arrested alive, so soldiers must be trained to get timely information from captured gang members in order to achieve tactical advantages. However, commanders must establish limits on detention and interrogation. In order to keep high moral standards, torture is completely unacceptable. To ensure these results, high standards of leadership at all levels are essential.

H. The decision-making process must establish actions to be performed in three phases: isolation, movement to contact, and conquest of key points. Principles of mass and unity of command must be observed. Law enforcement personnel under operational control must support the decision-making process and participate in the operations on receiving complementary tasks. Command posts must be established close to the operational area. In most of the favelas of Rio, the isolation phase demands the occupation of the railroad station used by that community, as well as the establishment of blocking and checkpoints in the access. Whenever possible, in order to gain a significant tactical advantage, stealthy occupation of dominant points must be executed in advance.

I. Employment of Army Aviation helicopters with crews trained in special air operations tactics is very important to help facilitate command and control, move small units quickly and precisely, and provide a good psychological effect. Often, gangs erect barricades in order to block access to key points; therefore, engineer support is mandatory to clear the way.

J. Special Operations Forces (SOF) are needed in all phases of the operation—for training the general purposes forces before the deployment, operating during the deployment, and continuing to work after most of the deployment has been completed. Psychological Operations tactical teams are essential to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population. Using loudspeakers and passing out leaflets have proven to be effective tactics for informing the local population about procedures during operations. In Brazil, the best law enforcement special operations units are trained by the Army. Experience shows that civilian police SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams and military police special operations teams may be deployed to accomplish specific tasks under the operational control of the Army's SOF.

K. Social communication is extremely important to the success of a mission. Selected reporters should be afforded the opportunity to cover the operation under specific restrictions since keeping the media updated on the operations is indispensable. Legal aspects are fundamental, and justice backup is essential. All searches and arrests must be conducted in accordance with the law and performed legally.

L. The Brazilian Army experience in Haiti has proved extremely important for better understanding urban operations. MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) was activated in 2004 under the military command of a Brazilian two-star general, and lessons learned from that operation are being effectively and efficiently disseminated elsewhere. The Brazilian Army's Special Operations Training Center (recently transferred to the City of Niteroi, State of Rio de Janeiro), the Brazilian Joint Peace Operations Training Center (City of Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro), and the Guarantee of Law and Order Training Center (City of Campinas, State of São Paulo) have the responsibility of training combat units to be prepared for these special kinds of operations.


Operations developed to provide the security of international events like the Military World Games are routinely conducted by the Brazilian Armed Forces. Such operations usually are performed under directives from the President of the Republic transmitted by the Minister of Defense, and are normally conducted under the responsibility of the respective Area Military Command of the Brazilian Army. This Army Command also usually receives operational control of the law enforcement agencies.

These security tasks routinely involve the development of the "Guarantee of Law and Order" operations, an Armed Forces mission stated in Article 142 of the Brazilian Constitution. Mainly because of their political implications, the conduct of operations under the Guarantee of Law and Order is always viewed with suspicion by the services' high commands. However, the Brazilian Armed Forces, particularly the Army, are fully aware that besides their traditional tasks, they must be sufficiently flexible and versatile enough to deploy capably against both guerrillas and urban drug gangs as well as against nontraditional or new security threats. These needs include operations to prevent and combat terrorism.

The lessons learned from all of these experiences are being applied to security planning under way for large, international events that will be held in Brazil in the future, including the Ecological Conference RIO+20 in 2012; the Youth Festival of Pope Benedict XVI and the Soccer Federations Cup in 2013; the Soccer World Cup in 2014; and the Olympic Games in 2016.

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