SYRACUSE, New York – Two New York National Guard members will represent the United States and the New York National Guard during the Brazilian Jungle Warfare Center’s annual international course at the end of September.
Cpl. Dakoatah Miller, an infantryman and college student from Cortland assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, will represent the New York Army National Guard.
Miller finished in second place in the enlisted category at the Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition in Arizona in August.
Tech. Sgt. Paul Cange, a Syracuse resident and joint terminal attack controller instructor assigned to the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, will represent the New York Air National Guard.
Cange, a full-time Guard Airman for four years, has 14-years of service and is a veteran of the Afghan War.
The school, known as CIGS, the acronym for its Portuguese name —Centro de Instrucao de Guerra na Selva — was founded in 1964 and is considered the top jungle training center in the world. The school is in Manas, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state, and runs a six-week international course typically attended by highly trained special operations soldiers from other countries.
Classes focus on navigating in the jungle, jungle tactics, and lots of swimming while learning to use rivers as travel routes in the jungle. Those who pass are awarded a special knife with a jaguar-headed handle made for the jungle warfare center.
Cange and Miller are attending as one of the training exchanges the New York National Guard and Brazilian military are conducting as part of their National Guard State Partnership Program agreement.
In August, 80 New York Air National Guard Airmen took part in a 10-day Brazilian Air Force exercise as part of that exchange.
In 2019, New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Thomas Carpenter attended the Brazilian jungle school, while New York Air National Guard Senior Airman Caleb Lapinel represented New York in 2020.
Both Cange and Miller were selected for the course because of their proven toughness and performance, senior enlisted leaders said.
Cange “has demonstrated the mental toughness and physical stamina to complete this course,“ according to Command Chief Master Sgt. Denny Richardson.
Richardson, the senior ranking Airman in the New York Air National Guard, said Cange is a natural leader.
“When faced with adversity, he has the ability to assess the situation quickly, make sound decisions, implement and lead,” Richardson said.
Command Sgt. Maj. David Piwowarski, the New York Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, said Miller was selected because of the capabilities he demonstrated competing in state, regional and national Best Warrior events while earning the Expert Infantry Badge.
“The preparation and dedication it takes to consistently win demonstrates his ability to stay mission-focused despite distractions like fatigue and hunger,” Piwowarski said.
“All of this, plus his infantry training at his unit, as well as his personal mental toughness, will ensure that he not only completes the Brazilian jungle warfare course but that he excels there,” Piwowarski said.
Miller said he’s spent the past month getting ready.
“I have prepared as best as I can for the school,” Miller said. “I am going to go down and give it my best.”
He has been making a special effort to do more swimming, Miller said.
Miller said he expects the biggest challenge in the jungle will be the humidity. The Army National Guard Best Warrior competition took place in Arizona, so the Amazon jungle is about as different as you can get, Miller said.
When he returns from the Brazilian school, he plans to attend the Army’s Ranger School in January and hopes to attend the Army’s Mountain Warfare School in Vermont next year.
Cange said he’s looking forward to the rigorous training in the Amazon jungle.
“It is an opportunity that does not get offered to everybody,” he said. “Having an opportunity to work with our partner forces, it is important.”
Cange said he was notified in February to plan to attend the school and has been working out rigorously to get in shape.
At age 37, he knows he will be older than many of the other international soldiers, but he believes he is fit enough. He, too, has been working on swimming.
“I would definitely say that I am not an expert swimmer, but I have the confidence to be in the water,” Cange said.
Learning the other skills the school focuses on — jungle navigation and tactics — will enable him to do a better job of preparing other Air Force forward air controllers to support U.S. forces in the field, said Cange, who is a graduate of the Army’s Airborne and Air Assault Schools and the Vermont Mountain Warfare School.