Chile Table of Contents
Historically, the profession of military science has been regarded as an honorable one in Chile. The army and to an even greater extent the air force have traditionally drawn their officer corps from among the middle classes, with a large portion coming from military families. Social elitism has been a traditional characteristic only of the officer corps of the navy. In 1900 military service became compulsory for all fit male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Traditionally, only a small proportion of those eligible would actually be drafted for one year of training in the army or air force or two years in the navy. The overwhelming majority of the approximately 30,000 conscripts selected annually would serve in the army. (Of the 121,000 who registered in 1993, only 29,400 were drafted.) Those not specifically exempted from service would have their names inscribed in a military register. Traditional government policy also dictated that 10 percent of the annual conscript intake should consist of illiterate citizens, who would be taught to read and write during their period of military service. On completion of their period of training, conscripts are required to serve in the Active Reserve for a period of twelve years and then in the Second Reserve until the age of forty-five. However, apart from the skeleton cadres of the regular armed forces, no effective reserve organization appeared to exist.
The three armed forces all have female members, who serve voluntarily. They carry out subsidiary support functions, such as nursing and administrative work.
Military personnel are well fed and well housed. The three armed forces have an education program aimed at providing enlisted personnel with useful skills for their return to civilian life. The navy and air force have relatively high educational requirements, even for compulsory enlistment, and impart technical skills to their conscripts.
Data as of March 1994