COMANF Tonelero Special Operations Battalion
Brazil’s Batalhao de Operacoes Especiais de Fuzilieros Navais do Comandos Anfibios “Tonelero” Tonelero Special Operations Battalion COMANF. ”One Comanf is unbeatable, two are unseparable and three make a war.”
The word Marine is synonymous with elite troops the world over, and the Brazilian armed forces maintain their own force of highly skilled amphibious troops. Known as the “Fuzilieros Navais”, or Naval Rifles, these “soldier-sailors” are characterized by their demanding training and rigorous selection process. With a doctrinal role adapted from the US Marine Corps, the Fuzilieros Navais form an elite amphibious force capable of acting when and where necessary to dictate Brazil’s national interests.
Within their ranks lie the highly trained of troops of the elite Batalhao de Operacoes Especiais de Fuzilieros Navais do Comandos Anfibios “Tonelero” ( “Tonelero” Special Operations Battalion). The unit known as the Comandos Anfibious (Amphibious Commandos), or COMANF, is a reinforced battalion (almost regimental size). Originally formed in 1957, and tasked with conducting reconnaissance, raids and other special missions, and has gradually evolved into its current structure.
Currently this specially trained group of Marines is tasked with conducting reconnaissance, raids, sabotage attacks, and other specialized tasks on behalf of the Brazilian Marine Corps. The Tonelero Battalion’s main mission is “to contribute to the preparation and execution of the naval power, through reconnaissance and commando actions.” The unit is also responsible for providing specialized courses of instruction for other Marine and military units.
The battalion is currently composed of approximately 500 troops who are organized into one Command and Services company; an Amphibious Reconnaissance company, known as RECONANF which executes missions similar those undertaken by USMC Force Recon units; a Terrestrial Reconnaissance (ground recon) company, which is known as RECONTER. RECONTER troops specialize in conducting ground recon and LRRP missions; and two Amphibious Commando companies that execute amphibious raids, ship assaults, and other direct action missions.
The battalion also maintains the 120 man GER, or Special Rescue Group. Very little information has been released publicly about the unit’s organization, training, or operations. What is known is that all members of the unit are both parachute and diver qualified. The unit is known to conduct joint training exercises with the GERR/MEC counter-terrorist team of the Navy’s GRUMEC combat diver unit.
Marines selected to serve in the unit undertake a period of instruction which may last over two years before the operator can finally be declared mission ready. The prospective commando will have to successfully complete both the Amphibious Commando (CESCOMANF), and Special Operations Course (CESOPESP). Several candidates are also selected to undertake the Brazilian Army’s Free-fall-Jump Course (CEXSAL). The Navy’s GRUMEC combat diver unit provides future COMANF commandos with instruction in both closed and open circuit diving, infiltration from submarines and underwater demolition. The Army provides instruction in mountaineering, parachuting, jungle warfare training (at the Army’s CIGS Jungle Warfare school), Commando and Special Forces training, and other specialized courses as deemed necessary.
Some Tonelero personnel are sent overseas on exchange tours, and to undertake specialized training courses provided by allied militaries. These courses have included the British “All Arms Commando Course”; Spain’s “Comando de Operaciones Especiales” ; The US Army ”Ranger” School; and the USMC’s “Amphibious Reconnaissance Course”. In order to operate effectively in various climates, and diverse conditions that Brazil has to offer, COMANF command schedules and conducts annual training exercises in various regions of Brazil.