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Military


El Salvador - Military Personnel

One year of military service is mandatory for all male Salvadoran citizens aged between 18 and 60 years old. Military service is by compulsory selective conscription of men between 18 and 30 years of age for one year. Voluntary service is open to citizens aged 16 years and older. After serving 18 months of service, usually from age 18 or 19, conscripts revert to an active reserve status until age 30. From age 30 to 60, reservists are assigned to second-line territorial service. Generally, enlisted members of the Salvadoran Army are between 18 to 40 years old, NCOs are 24 to 30 years old, and company- and fieldgrade officers are 24 to 38 years old.

El Salvador has an army (Fuerza Armada Salvadoreña), a navy (Fuerza Naval) and an air force (Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña). In August 2005, the armed forces totalled 15,500 men, of whom an estimated 13,850 were in the army, 700 were in the navy and 950 were in the air force. There were also some 9,900 members of the joint reserves. The National Civilian Police force numbered around 12,000 officers in 2005 and was to increase by 4,000 more in 2006.

The Salvadoran Armed Forces (ESAF) continues to focus on force modernization in a constrained budget environment. The ESAF had approximately 12,000 total service members in 2009 and 2,500 administrative personnel.

Under the 1992 Peace Accord, the size of the armed forces was reduced from 60,000 to approximately 26,000 active duty personnel. Several infantry battalions, the National Intelligence Directorate, the Treasury Police, and the National Guard were disbanded to meet the force reductions agreed to in the accord. The peace agreement also limits the army’s mission to protecting the republic from foreign attack and gives the internal security mission to the newly organized PNC.

Under Article 215 of the Constitution, military service for a minimum of two years was obligatory for all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of eighteen and thirty, although in practice youth from wealthy families avoided military service. In 1988 El Salvador had a manpower pool of 807,000 males fit for military service, and approximately 65,000 Salvadoran males reached military age (eighteen) annually. Prior to the guerrilla conflict and its attendant increase in military personnel, conscription was resorted to only rarely, and only one year of service was required. The services drew mainly young rural men whose lack of employment prospects made even low-paying, high-risk military service attractive. After 1979, however, the armed forces relied heavily on the draft. Conscripts (males only) were required initially to serve eighteen months at the age of eighteen or nineteen, but the period was soon increased to twenty-four months.

On completion of their service, conscripts reverted to ''active reserve" status until the age of thirty, or they could choose to remain for a longer period of time at a higher salary. The army, however, limited reenlistment to 20 percent because a draftee was paid only US$80 per month, as compared with US$300 a month for a soldier who had completed two two-year tours. From the ages of thirty to sixty, reservists were assigned to the second-line Territorial Service, a part-time, volunteer security force that mainly provided reserve manpower for the army.

Recruitment to the regular armed forces was carried out nationally but was decentralized down to the township level. Conscript classes were called up biannually, and each individual reported to the military unit nearest his home. Local boards—consisting of officers, civilian officials, and medical personnel—examined prospective draftees and ruled on their qualifications and on requests for exemption or deferment. Each township received a quota of the vacancies in the regular service and filled them first with volunteers. After initial examinations, the local boards submitted a list of qualified volunteers to the departmental commander. Selections were made by lottery, in accordance with the choice of service indicated. Accepted candidates then reported to their new stations in the departmental regiment.

The army also frequently resorted to the impressment of young men into service, particularly in urban areas, in order to fulfill its manpower quotas. In the late 1980s, according to the New York Times, the armed forces were forcibly enlisting 12,000 youths a year. Those most affected by this press-gang system were usually from poor and rural families; often they were as young as fourteen. The military almost never forcibly recruited youths in wealthy neighborhoods. If recruited, they could generally buy their way out of the service with help from their families.

Historically, most women in the Salvadoran military served as nurses or were relegated to secretarial or domestic duties, such as cooking. In 1985 most of the 2,000 military nurses worked at the Military Hospital in San Salvador; few were assigned to field duty. At that time, the armed forces had six female officers, all of whom had received their commissions because of their foreign training. The highest ranking nurse was a captain, but none held any position in a chain of command.

Until the 1920s, officers were selected from the country's prominent families and constituted an elite caste. In time, the selection process became increasingly egalitarian, however, and by 1970 the officer corps was composed mostly of mestizos from farm communities. The officers came from segments of the population educated enough to qualify for the demanding officer training. All officers were career regulars, except for a small number of professional specialists, such as doctors.

In comparison with equivalent civilian standards, the conditions under which military personnel served were generally quite good. Officers, but not enlisted personnel, had separate family accommodations. Married noncommissioned officers (NCOs) received extra family allowances that were sufficient to enable them to procure local housing. Quarters, food, and pay were generally considerably better than the average campesino could find outside the service. Other benefits and advantages included medical care, accrued leave, retirement pay, and survivor benefits, although the latter were not always guaranteed. Special allowances were also available based on family size and the location of one's duty station; extra pay also was authorized for specialists and airborne and flight personnel. Retirement for disability, age, or length of service was either statutory or granted on request. Liberal leave policies allowed all ranks to accrue thirty days a year; there also were special provisions for emergency situations.

In accordance with the 1992 peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. More than 35,000 eligible beneficiaries from among the former guerrillas and soldiers who fought in the war received land under the peace accord-mandated land transfer program, which ended in January 1997. The majority of them also received agricultural credits.

The negotiators of the Peace Accord contemplated the creation of an Ad-hoc Commission that was charged with revamping the command structure of the armed forces after undertaking an exhaustive evaluation of the officer corps, especially their observance of human rights during the conflict, in addition to their professional competence and their abilities to grow within the new democratic environment then in the process of being built. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission's recommendations.

Both the procedure to evaluate the officers of the armed forces as well as the decisions regarding their professional future had no precedents in Salvadoran history, especially with regards to the role that civilians were playing in military matters. Until then, matters related to the armed forces had been handled strictly within its institutional perimeters, inside which civilians had no access. Now, all of a sudden, the situation had changed and criticism was not long in-coming from the ranks of the army. Regardless of the delicate situation, the government of president Cristiani proceeded with the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Commission by mid-1993, including the retirement of more than one hundred officers, including the minister of defense and the head of the joint chiefs of staff of the armed forces.

Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police, National Guard, and National Police were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993 -- 9 months ahead of schedule -- the military had cut personnel from a war-time high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force.

The transition from a military way of life to a civilian and the reinsertion of ex-combatants contributed to improve the personal and familial situation of a good number of Salvadoran women and men. It also helped to raise the general indicators of well-being but not in sufficient terms to include other poor sectors of the population since the government had limited resources at its disposal.

Together with the demobilization and disarmament of the FMLN in October 1992, it can be argued that the implementation of the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Commission closed the last chapter of the war to the extent that its most visible protagonists – the high command of the armed forces and the general commanders of the FMLN – ceased in their posts of military authority. There was nothing left to do in the field of war.

The Minister of Interior and Territorial Development, Aristides Valencia participated in a meeting 01 December 2015 organized by the National Coordinator of Veterans of the Armed Forces, where he reported that 12 December 2015 will start with the delivery of license and installation of Veterans Commission for officially undertake the process of compliance with the Act Benefits and Social Benefits for Veterans of the Armed Forces and Veterans of the FMLN. Holder said that "the adoption of the Law is the product of organized labor veterans and veterans of the Armed Forces and the FMLN, this shows that when we are united we can achieve the goals." He also expressed the support of the Government and the President Salvador Sanchez Ceren. He explained that the card will allow veterans and veterans benefits go to different social programs and has no cost, so that made the call to complain if some people are charging for the card.

All officers of the Army, Navy, and Air Force receive basic training at the Escuela Militar Capitan General Gerardo Barrios at San Salvador. Special skills (MOS) training is taught at the Escuela de Armas y Servicios for both officer and enlisted ranks, while advanced officer training is provided at the Escuela de Comando y Estado Mayor Manuel Enrique Araujo. Both of these institutions are in San Salvador.

Newly enlisted personnel attend a 12-week basic skills training course. NCOs receive training in the areas of promotion advancement, reconnaissance, commando skills, and supply duties. After completing basic training, enlisted troops receive on-the-job training at their units. At the end of their first year of enlistment, those soldiers considered superior are sent to the Advanced Individual Training offered by specialized schools (intelligence, engineer, special forces).

The Special Forces School transferred from San Francisco Gotera to La Union where the basic training center and training areas are located.





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