El Salvador Table of Contents
Aspiring officers for all three services completed the fouryear course of the Captain General Gerardo Barrios Military Academy, graduating with a bachelor's degree and being commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant. Located a few miles west of the capital, the academy was the primary source of commissioned officers in the army, navy, and air force. In 1985 a shortage of officers forced the academy to begin operating on an emergency status that required the curriculum to be reduced to three years.
Enrollment was limited to unmarried males between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one who had graduated from high school and passed competitive entrance examinations. Students spent only their first year training at the academy. During the rest of the time, they were attached to various battalions throughout the country.
Most cadets came from lower-middle-class families; during the 1980s, many came from areas of heavy guerrilla activity. Fewer than 10 percent of the enrolled cadets were sons of military officers. The academy also trained cadets from other Central American countries. In the late 1980s, it usually had a student body of about 225 cadets, with about 100 to 125 candidates entering each year. Nevertheless, a tradition of strict, even brutal, discipline ensured a first-year drop-out rate of 35 to 40 percent, and only 10 to 20 percent of each class graduated. Under this system, loyalty to classmates was particularly strong.
Academy graduates who elected to serve in the navy or air force received additional specialized training before being transferred to those services. For example, an officer who enlisted in the Salvadoran Air Force underwent flight training at the Military Aviation School (Escuela de Aviacion Militar) or specialist training at the Specialists' School (Escuela de Especializacion). Most officer personnel also pursued some additional training abroad, especially in the United States.
By law Salvadoran Army officers had to attend their own service schools, including the Command and General Staff School (Escuela de Mando y Estado Mayor General). This war college provided courses in advanced military science for officers of the rank of lieutenant colonel and above and aspiring staff officers. Regular NCOs were trained at the Noncommissioned Officers School and at the Arms and Services School (Escuela de Armas y Servicios--EAS). The EAS provided specialist training for both officers and other ranks, as well as an advanced six-month course for field-grade officers. Basic and advanced officer training were offered at the Armed Forces Military Training Center (Centro de Entrenamiento Militar de las Fuerzas Armadas--CEMFA), which was established in La Union in 1984. The military also had a human rights training program for officers and enlisted personnel. Most officers pursued additional postgraduate studies abroad. In the 1980s, many Salvadoran armed forces personnel received training in other Latin American countries, particularly Argentina and Chile; at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia; and in Taiwan. In 1983 officers and cadets also began receiving scholarships from Britain, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
Data as of November 1988