The Portuguese Marine Corps are a Special Forces unit in the Portuguese Navy. The corps is specialised in amphibious warfare, coastal reconnaissance, maritime interdiction and boarding operations. The Portuguese Marine Corps (Corpo de Fuzileiros) is an Elite Light Infantry Force, operating as a Rapid-Reaction Force.
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Initial training to become an enlisted Fuzileiro lasts about 42 weeks. It is conducted at the Escola de Fuzileiros in Vale de Zebro. It is rigorous and very demanding, both physically and mentally, and eventually 25% to 40% will pass. If successfully completed, the recruits receive their Blue Dark Beret, and are assigned to operational units. The Fuzileiros in training are constantly under stress and pressure from instructors leaving them no respite. All activities are timed and scored: marching several tens of kilometers with equipment and weapon, obstacle course, navigation at night on the ground. The training is punctuated by firearms training and special combat techniques, rappelling and climbing, boating, explosives and hand-to-hand combat.
The Marine Corps is made up of an administrative command – Comando do Corpo de Fuzileiros (Marine Corps Command); an instruction unit –Escola de Fuzileiros (Marines School); and a base unit – Base de Fuzileiros (Marines Base). The operational units of the Marines, stationed at the Marines Base, are:
- 1st Marine Battalion;
- 2nd Marine Battalion;
- Naval Police Unit;
- Special Actions Detachment;
- Fire Support Company;
- Tactical Transports Support Company.
Based at the Marines School is the Unidade de Meios de Desembarque (Landing Assets Unit).
When needed, several elements of the operational units can organize themselves into a task-force for amphibious assaults called Batalhão Ligeiro de Desembarque (Assault Light Battalion).
The Portuguese Marines (Portuguese: Fuzileiros) have their direct origin in the oldest permanent military unit of Portugal, the Terço of the Navy of the Crown of Portugal, created in 1621. It should be noted, however, that since 1585 specialized troops existed to provide artillery and riflemen in the Portuguese warships. The Terço of the Navy was soon considered an elite unit, also being responsible for the bodyguard of the King of Portugal.
In the beginning of the 18th century the force was reorganized, being organized in two regiments: The 1st and the 2nd Regiments of the Navy. Later a Regiment of Naval Artillery was added.
At the end of 18th century, in the reign of Queen Maria I, all the regiments of the navy, were integrated into the new Royal Brigade of the Navy, which included three divisions: Fusiliers (fuzileiros), Artillerymen and Ballasters. In 1808, when Napoleon occupied Portugal, the Royal Family fled to exile in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, accompanied by the majority of the Royal Brigade of the Navy. This resulted in the forming of the Marines Corps of Brazil.
In middle of the 19th Century, the staff of the Portuguese Armada underwent militarization. Up to then the sailors were not militarized, only the officers and the members of the Royal Brigade. With this militarization it was determined to maintain a permanent unit of navy infantry, extinguishing the Royal Brigade. From this date, the forces of navy infantry were organized with the military sailors (they started to receive training from infantry), removed from the garrisons of ships, and used whenever the necessity existed to carry out amphibious operations. Thus, some battalions and forces of the Navy were organized to participate in the diverse colonial campaigns of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as in World War I.
In 1924 the Brigade of the Naval Guard was created as a permanent unit of navy infantry. However it ceased to exist in 1934.
The naval infantry only reappeared with a character of permanence from 1961 with the beginning of the Colonial War. The Detachments of Special Marines (Destacamentos de Fuzileiros Especiais (DFE)) were created for missions of amphibious assault and the Companies of Marines (Companhias de Fuzileiros Navais (CFN)) were created for patrolling and naval defense of boats and installations. During this war, and up to 1975, more than 14,000 marines fought in Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.
Up to 1975 a unified Marine Corps Command did not exist, being that diverse DFE and CFN were dependents of the Naval and Maritime Defense Commands of the areas where they operated. In this year the Marine Corps was created, of which all had started to be dependents the units of riflemen, giving a substantial autonomy to that force.