Professional Training and Education
Cuba's system of military training and education has been developed over the decades to support the specialized needs of a highly professional military force. These schools and training centers are under the authority of a separate directorate within the MINFAR. This directorate is dedicated exclusively to overseeing the education system and reports to the FAR General Staff. During the late 1970s, as a result of efforts to improve educational standards, the upper-level military educational institutions were granted university status. The extent to which these schools, their admission standards, and their curricula were affected by the economic crisis of the 1990s and by the downsizing of the armed forces is unclear.
The preparation of potential future members of the armed forces may be seen as beginning with the Camilo Cienfuegos Military Schools (Escuelas Militares Camilo Cienfuegos - EMCC), which are open to youth (both males and females) between the ages of eleven and seventeen. The first Camilo Cienfuegos school was opened in Matanzas in 1966. By the 1980s, eleven such schools had been established and were located throughout the island. Each was under the authority of a particular branch of military service, with the army controlling seven of the schools. They offered a five-year course of study that was considered comparable to a pre-university education.
Yet in addition to the general curriculum that paralleled that offered by civilian schools, the Camilitosias the school's students are known-were also given introductory classes on military tactics, the handling of light weapons, topography, chemical defense, and engineering. The students were also expected to adhere to military discipline and participate in drills. Most students gained admission either through their own participation in PCC-related youth organizations namely, the OPJM (Organization of Jose Marti Pioneers) or the Union of Young Communists (Union de Jovenes Comunistas - UJC)-or through their parents' membership in the FAR or PCC. The graduates of the EMCC were believed to be given preference in admission to the MINFAR's more advanced schools and training programs. The extent to which these schools and their curricula were affected by the economic crisis of the 1990s remained unclear at the time of writing.
Beyond this level, each branch of the armed forces has, until recently, operated its own schools and service academies. The exception is the MGR, whose naval academy at Punta Santa Ana, near Havana, was closed in the 1990s and converted into a hospital. The DAAFAR's Aviation Pilots Military School (Escuela Militar de Pilotos de Aviacion - EMPA) is located at the San Julian airbase in western Pinar del Rio Province. During the 1980s, the DAAFAR also operated its own technical school, the DAAFAR Technical School (Escuela Tecnica de la DAAFAR). The Ministry of Interior also operates separate schools for training its personnel.
The General Antonio Maceo Joint-Service School (Escuela de Cadetes Interarmas General Antonio Maceo-ECAM) has traditionally been the Army's service academy. This school, located at Ceiba del Agua, a short distance southeast of the capital, was first opened in 1963. By the 1980s, admission requirements had been stiffened to stipulate that entrants must have a minimum of a tenth-grade education and be between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. ECAM's three-and four-year programs of study emphasize the preparation and training of tactical and technical command officers; the curriculum is designed for members of armored and mechanized infantry units and for engineering and logistics personnel.
The Major Camilo Cienfuegos Revolutionary Armed Forces Artillery School (Escuela de Artilleria de las FAR Comandante Camilo Cienfuegos) was founded in 1963 and is located at La Cabana Fortress in Havana harbor. It provides advanced training for field and antiaircraft artillery officers, who upon completion of their studies are awarded a degree in either science or engineering. Those admitted to the school's engineering program, which is a five-year course of study, are required to have graduated from a pre-university preparatory school, technical institute, or high school, and must be between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. A four-year program, with similar admission requirements, is offered that focuses on preparing future officers who will command field and antiaircraft artillery, reconnaissance, and radio-technical units.
The Military Technical Institute (ITM) , founded in 1966 and located in Havana, offers the most advanced technical training programs available to MINFAR personnel. Unlike the other academies, the ITM is open to women. It offers enrollment in either four-or five-year training programs. Those admitted to the more stringent five-year program must be graduates of a pre-university preparatory school and be between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. The five-year program provides for instruction in field artillery, infantry, weapons, tanks, and transport; those graduating from the program become qualified mechanical engineers. The two four-year programs offer training for electromechanical and mechanical technicians. The admission requirements for the four-year courses of study are slightly less stringent than for the five-year program. So long as an applicant has a minimum tenth-grade education and is between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, he or she is eligible for admission. As with the other schools and courses of study, the demonstration of political loyalty was considered a relevant factor in determining an applicant's qualifications.
The MINFAR's senior service school is the General Maximo Gomez Revolutionary Armed Forces Academy (Academia de las FAR General Maximo Gomez), which was founded in July 1963 and is located in western La Habana Province. This school provides training for middle-to upper-ranking MINFAR officers. During the 1980s, attendance at the school became a requisite for those hoping to be assigned to the General Staff. The school's curriculum is roughly comparable to that offered at advanced officer training schools in the United States, such as the United States Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or the United States Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
During the 1990s, the most advanced institution for military education was the National Defense College. This recently established college, which was modeled on Canada's senior officer school, offers a curriculum that is roughly comparable to that of the United States' National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Its primary focus, as reflected in the curriculum, is on strategic security issues. Although organized mainly for the benefit of senior military professionals, some civilians-most of whom are government functionaries also are invited to attend the courses. The faculty of the college includes military officials as well as civilian professors. During the 1990s, a period when the military became increasingly involved in the national economy and was often identified as an advocate for further reforms in that arena, the college's faculty members included civilian economists, some of whom also favored economic reforms in line with those envisioned by the MINFAR's leaders.
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