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According to Article 143 of the 1988 constitution, military service is obligatory for men, but conscientious objection is allowed. Women and clergymen are exempt from compulsory military service. At age seventeen, men are required to register for the draft and are expected to serve when they reach age eighteen. About 75 percent of those registering receive deferments. Generally, those from the upper class and upper middle class find ways to defer, and as a result the ranks are made up primarily of lower-class and lower-middle-class recruits. A growing number of recruits are volunteers, accounting for about one-third of the total. Those who serve generally spend one year of regular enlistment at an army garrison near their home. Some are allowed six-month service terms but are expected to complete high school at the same time. These are called "Tiros de Guerra," or "shooting schools," which are for high school boys in medium-sized interior towns, run by army sergeants. The army is the only service with a large number of conscripts; the navy and air force have very few.

The conscript system is primarily a means of providing basic military training to a sizable group of young men who then return to civilian life and are retained on the reserve rolls until age forty-five. The army recognizes that it provides a public service by teaching large numbers of conscripts basic skills that can be valuable to the overall economy when the young men return to civilian life.

Ranks, Uniforms, and Insignia

The three armed forces use several different uniforms, including full dress, dress, service, and fatigue. The army service uniform is green; the navy, navy blue; and the air force, a lighter blue. The senior commissioned rank (four stars) in the army is general (general de exército ); in the navy, admiral (almirante de esquadra ); and in the air force, general (tenente-brigadeiro ) (see fig. 15). In time of war, or in exceptional circumstances, a fifth star may be worn by the highest-ranking officer in the army (marechal , or general of the army) navy (almirante , or fleet admiral), and air force (marechal do ar , or general of the air force). Army and air force officers wear rank insignia on shoulder boards; navy officers wear them on sleeve cuffs. Each service has ten officer grades, excluding officer candidates.

Army officer grades from second lieutenant to colonel equate directly with counterparts in the United States Army, but thereafter the systems diverge. A Brazilian brigadier general (general de brigada ) wears two stars, and the next higher rank, known as major general (general de divisão ), wears three; their United States counterparts have only one and two stars, respectively. The next higher rank, designated by four stars, is general (general de exército ). The marshall wears five stars, but that rank is rarely attained on active duty. There is no rank that corresponds to United States lieutenant general.

Brazil's army has strict up-or-out retirement rules, which were developed in the mid-1960s by President Castelo Branco. The internal command structure determines all promotions through the rank of colonel. The president is involved in the promotions to general and chooses one candidate from a list of three names presented to him by the High Command. Once passed over, the colonel must retire. All colonels must retire at age fifty-nine; and all four-star generals must retire at age sixty-six, or after twelve years as general.

Despite the up-or-out system, under President Sarney the army became top-heavy as generals began to occupy many positions that previously had been reserved for colonels. In 1991 there were fifteen four-star, forty three-star, and 110 two-star generals. The figure for four-star generals did not include four who were ministers in the Superior Military Court (Superior Tribunal Militar--STM). Thus, in the mid-1990s the army sought to reduce the number of active-duty generals.

Air force ranks have the same designations as those of the army through colonel, and there is also no rank corresponding to lieutenant general. Air force general officer ranks are brigadier, major brigadier, lieutenant brigadier, and air marshal; the five-star rank is seen rarely. Navy ranks correspond directly to the United States Navy counterparts, except that there is no one-star rank, equivalent to rear admiral (lower half) in the United States. The flag ranks are rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral, and fleet admiral.

The highest army enlisted rank is subtenente , which is the equivalent of the United States master sergeant and sergeant major ranks (see fig. 16). The navy's highest enlisted rank is suboficial , which is the equivalent of the United States senior chief petty officer and master chief petty officer. In the air force, the top enlisted rank is also suboficial , which is comparable with the United States senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant.

Data as of April 1997

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