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Bolivian Military Personnel

The Bolivian Armed Forces (BAF) is made up of Army, Navy, and Air Force branches, and the approximate size is 46,000 personnel, which is about 0.46 percent of the population. Every year approximately 84,000 men reach conscription age. Annually 25,000 to 30,000 conscripts are recruited.

Since 1904 military service has been compulsory for all fit males between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine. In practice, however, budgetary limitations strictly limited the number of eligible men conscripted, and those traditionally tended to be mostly Indians. Beginning in 1967, conscripts were legally held on active duty for up to two years, but funds seldom permitted even a full year's service. Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and warrant officers, all of whom were volunteers, generally were drawn from mixed-blood cholos.

In the late 1980s, the service obligation was one year, and conscripts had to be at least nineteen years of age. The FF.AA. commander reported in early 1989 that the largest percentage of conscripts came from the middle class. One explanation for this change could have been the flocking of youths to the lucrative coca paste-making business. Military authorities in the Cochabamba area in particular began to experience growing difficulty in enlisting volunteers in the mid-1980s. Consequently, the military reportedly was resorting to press-ganging eighteen-year-olds off the city streets to fill their annual quotas.

Although there is now less press-ganging of youths in the streets and parks, it still happens at call-up time. Male students who live in cities and are in the fourth form (Cuarto Medio) - the final year of secondary education are liable for pre-military service. It involves military and civilian training at weekends. In 1998 pre-military service was introduced for young women in border regions. They receive military instruction at college, supervised by their fathers.

Richard J. Schmidt noted in 2005 that "for the indigenous population, military service is a double-edged sword. The bonds formed between the lower classes within the military and the Left during the Chaco War do not exist. One year of conscripted service is still levied on Bolivia’s young men, the majority of which come from Bolivia’s indigenous population. Although allegiance to the state (and its military) is mixed at best, military service in and of itself is seen as an honorable endeavor. Within many indigenous communities, a certificate of military service is the gateway to future employment, and it increases ones socialstanding within the community."

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.

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.

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Page last modified: 19-08-2016 18:17:49 ZULU