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Sociology of the Officer Corps

Throughout the period since 1930, officers have been drawn largely from the urban middle class. Although the middle and upper classes have always gone to great lengths to avoid having their sons serve as common soldiers, the opportunity for a free education has also attracted young men without better alternatives to the officer corps. Because of its emphasis on education, merit, and performance, the officer corps offers more opportunities for advancement than is the case in the political and socioeconomic spheres where family ties, friendships, connections, and money play a larger role.

A key factor shaping officers' attitudes has been the military educational system. However, changes in location, number, and function of the military schools, as well as changes in curricula, teaching staffs, equipment, and living and training facilities, have made it difficult to develop lasting traditions and a sense of commonality among the graduates. Moreover, the changes have deepened generational divisions.

Under Brazil's military education system, officers in a particular class form a turma , which is often a lifelong association. The turmas that officers are in at graduation are monitored carefully thereafter. Since World War II, the socialization process has involved the deliberate reinforcement of turma ties, including the interlinking of turmas by the Armed Forces General Staff. For some officers, the process may have begun in one of the twelve Military Schools (CMs) at the age of fourteen or fifteen. From the day they enter the AMAN, marching through the new cadets' gate, until they leave through the aspirants' (aspirantes ) gate, the educational and training experience brings them together in a world that emphasizes unity and performance.

Spread over forty-two weeks each year, the AMAN curriculum blends military training with postsecondary studies. First-year cadets receive eight hours per week of military instruction, while second- and third-year cadets receive twelve and sixteen hours, respectively. The rest of their time is devoted to physical education, academic subjects, and study. In January and February, fourth-year cadets are sent to units in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, or Minas Gerais to help train recruits for four weeks; they return to the same units for two weeks in June and a week in October to gain experience with the same soldiers further along in the training cycle.

In the first year at the AMAN, cadets are housed by turma , and thereafter they are quartered in multi-turma groups by service and branch--infantry, artillery, cavalry, engineering, quartermaster, communications, and war matériel. This early branch selection mirrors Brazilian civilian university procedure, which also forces career or professional selection at the outset. Considering that AMAN enrollment averages 1,400 and that graduating turmas tend to be between 300 and 400, it is relatively easy to know a large number of contemporary cadets. As the officer progresses from aspirante to colonel, the turma becomes an increasingly important identification.

The army's educational system reinforces the turmas and seeks to knit them together across generations. The army's personnel department tries to form the new class at the EsAO from the same AMAN turma ; the same is true for those who pass the competitive examinations for the ECEME. In the intervening years, they have served together in units throughout Brazil and have formed close bonds with commanders and subordinates from other turmas .

Student officers reach the ECEME in early middle age as majors and lieutenant colonels. They usually are married and have children. However, many officers in the ECEME cannot afford to bring their families to Rio de Janeiro for the two years. Except for the few who have their own quarters, the student officers live in apartments next to the school on Praia Vermelha for the two-year course, forming tight relationships that embrace whole families. Thereafter, the ECEME relationship takes precedence, for only command school graduates move upward. The ECEME has the effect of producing midcareer male bonding, and it turns out articulate, active, and well-prepared administrators, planners, and commanders.

Within the turma , ties are maintained informally by birthday and promotion telegrams and by meeting for discussions, when a number of members are stationed near each other. As the turma members progress through their careers, they tend to expand the group's contacts. Turmas may attach themselves to an upwardly mobile officer, or such an officer may seek ties with a turma in which he has trusted men (homens de confiança ) on whom he can call when he has openings in his command.

ECEME instructors, who are often appointed for their academic achievements and staff performance and who are upwardly mobile by definition, establish ties with the turmas they teach. Often when these instructors hold command positions, they turn to their former students to fill subordinate slots. For example, João Figueiredo was a student of Ernesto Geisel at the ECEME. There is a structural link between the ECEME and the AMAN in that many of the field-grade officers assigned to the AMAN are customarily ECEME graduates, and by regulation the history and geography courses must be given by officers wearing the command school insignia. In this fashion, the officer generations get knitted together, thereby contributing to institutional unity. ECEME graduates shape and execute military doctrine. They are the military elite, filling staff positions in the national and regional commands. From their ranks come all the general officers.

Data as of April 1997

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