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Military Schools

Bolivia's military schools, with one exception, operated under the direction of a colonel who occupied the position of director of military institutes on the army's Estado Mayor (Staff). Through the Estado Mayor's National Directorate of Instruction and Teaching (Dirección Nacional de Instrucción y Enseñanza), the director administered the school system from the army headquarters compound in La Paz's Miraflores district. The principal officer school complex was located in Cochabamba, however, under the jurisdiction of the Seventh Airborne Division commander.

Most officers of the three services attended a five-year basic training course at the "Colonel Gualberto Villarroel" Army Military Academy (Colegio Militar del Ejército "Coronel Gualberto Villarroel"--CME) in Irpavi, a valley suburb of La Paz. Officers identified with their Military Academy classes (promociones) throughout their military careers. To gain admittance, an applicant had to be Bolivian; single; a secondary school graduate (or pass a written examination with a high score); and under twenty years of age. The applicant also had to produce a health document, certificates of good moral character from both the national police and the local police, and a recommendation from a "responsible sponsor." Every December the school graduated about ninety-five cadets, who were commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns.

After a period of serving in units, Military Academy graduates proceeded to the specialist schools of their respective arms and services. Company-grade officers underwent a basic six-month course at the FF.AA.'s School of Arms in Cochabamba. After another year with a unit, they were required to attend a tenmonth advanced course at this school. Army schools also included the Army Artillery School (Escuela de Artillería del Ejército-- EAE) and the EC in Cochabamba. The EC's three-year course graduated hardy and disciplined troops for crisis situations. NCOs generally did not play any political role. Special Forces training for select members of all three services was given at the Army Condors School (Escuela de Cóndores del Ejército--ECE) in Sanandita, Tarija Department. Engineer officers in all three services, after three years of unit experience, enrolled in a five-year professional course at the EIM in La Paz.

For promotion to field grade or for staff appointments, an officer had to graduate from the appropriate two-year courses of the ECEM in Cochabamba. Since the school's inauguration in 1950, ECEM graduates who met certain other requirements were awarded the title of Staff Graduate (Diplomado de Estado Mayor--DEM), were entitled to use DEM following their rank, and became eligible for certain key positions. The coveted title was required for command of tactical units or service on the Staff. Officers who had served at least two years as captains and received the top rating of "very good" from the School of Arms could apply to enroll in the two-year ECEM course.

After spending a period with a unit, an ECEM graduate could enroll in a nine- to twelve-month course at the National War College (EAEN), the only military school not under the director of military institutes. Distinguished civilians, such as lawyers and university professors, with an interest in national security affairs could also enroll. Military graduates of the EAEN course were awarded the prestigious title of Graduate of High National Studies (Diplomado de Altos Estudios Nacionales--DAEN), whose initials replaced the staff designation of DEM. Few officers were promoted to colonel without having completed the EAEN course, a prerequisite for promotion to general officer. (President Torres worsened his strained relations with the army by appointing, as army chief of staff, a young reformist officer who had not graduated from the EAEN course.) Every year Bolivia also sent officers on training scholarships (becas) abroad, usually to Argentina, Brazil, Peru, or the United States.

Air force officers completed the five-year course of the Military Academy in La Paz before being commissioned into FAB with a rank equivalent to second lieutenant. Officer pilots then transferred to the flying school in Santa Cruz for specialist training. Since 1955 FAB's aeronautical training institute had been the Colmilav in El Trompillo, Santa Cruz Department. Colmilav included primary and basic training squadrons. Graduates of Colmilav were promoted to second lieutenant. The Colmilav student body totaled about 300 cadets in 1988. Fewer than half of the 100 cadets who enrolled every year succeeded in graduating.

FAB's first aerotechnical training school was the Polytechnical Military School of Aeronautics (Politécnico Militar de Aeronáutica--PMA), established in 1953 and based in Cochabamba since January 1987. The PMA graduated aviation technicians with the rank of first-sergeant technicians (sargentos primeros técnicos). Its February 1986 graduating class totaled thirty-five members. In January 1986, the Technical Training School of the Air Force (Escuela de Capacitación Técnica de la Fuerza Aérea-- ECT) was founded at El Alto Air Base outside La Paz. FAB officers received additional mid-career, postgraduate training at the ECEM in Cochabamba. The "General René Barrientos Ortuño" Air War School (Escuela de Guerra Aérea "General René Barrientos Ortuño"- -EGA), which was inaugurated in 1973 for postgraduate studies, offered a command and staff course and, since February 1986, an air squadron course. A FAB group commander who used the title of Graduate of Aerial Military Studies (Diplomado de Estudios Militares Aéreos--DEMA) after his rank probably graduated from the EGA or EAEN. Many FAB officers also pursued additional courses of study abroad.

Bolivia had several naval schools. An Argentine naval mission assisted in the creation of two naval schools located in Tiquina: the Naval Military School (Escuela Naval Militar--ENM), established in 1973 and attended by officers attached to the CME in Irpavi; and the "Dr. Ladislao Cabrera Vargas" Naval Staff College (Escuela de Estado Mayor Naval "Dr. Ladislao Cabrera Vargas"--EEMN), sometimes referred to as the Naval War College, for commanding officers (jefes) and regular officers, which opened in 1970. Other naval schools included the Littoral Naval School (Escuela de Marinería Litoral--EML) in Trinidad, the Naval Technical School (Escuela Técnica Naval--ETN) for NCOs, and the Naval Application School (Escuela de Aplicación Naval--EAN) for subaltern officers. Naval personnel also continued to receive part of their training in Argentina.

Data as of December 1989

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Bolivia Table of Contents