In May 1990, Lieutenant General Guillermo de Nava, the army commander, defined the army's mission and the role of its members. He stressed that "for the government and the country the most important action of the army is the exact compliance with our fundamental role that is defined in the law and which consists of defending the honor, the independence, and the peace of the Republic, the integrity of its territory, its Constitution, and its laws." He also maintained that the armed forces must take action against "all types of aggression."
Army personnel in 1990 numbered some 17,200, a reduction of 22 percent from the 1983 level of 22,000. The army consisted of infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineer, signal, administrative, transport, materiel, medical, and veterinary services. The chief of the army staff presided over staff sections for personnel, intelligence, operations and instruction, logistics, and public relations.
The army's main tactical units were organized under four corps headquarters that were administrative rather than operational. Each corps was located in one of the four military regions (each army corps bore the same number as the military region). The four corps together had one independent infantry brigade, fifteen infantry battalions, six engineer battalions, six artillery battalions, and ten cavalry battalions (four horsed, three mechanized, two motorized, and one armored).
Each corps was responsible for at least three infantry battalions, one engineer battalion, and one field artillery battalion, as well as logistics, signals, and support units. The number and type of cavalry battalions within each corps varied. The First Corps at Montevideo was traditionally the most powerful of the army's main command elements. Its cavalry units included one horsed battalion, one mechanized battalion with scout cars, and one motorized battalion. The artillery command of the First Corps had one antiaircraft battalion in addition to its field artillery battalion.
One independent infantry brigade headquarters that performed many of the army's administrative functions was attached to army headquarters at Montevideo. The brigade was responsible for one armored battalion, one airborne battalion, and one ranger infantry battalion. Also at the army level was one motorized cavalry battalion that functioned as a presidential bodyguard and performed ceremonial duties. One engineer brigade made up of two battalions, as well as assorted logistics and support elements, completed the units assigned to army headquarters.
The Second Corps was headquartered at San Jose. Under it was an armored cavalry battalion equipped with light tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs). The Third Corps, at Paso de los Toros, had two horsed battalions and one mechanized cavalry battalion. One of its infantry battalions was equipped with APCs. The Fourth Corps was headquartered at Minas. Within the Fourth Corps, one horsed battalion and one mechanized cavalry battalion were located at Melo.
Major ground force arms were relatively heterogeneous in origin. Much was obsolete United States equipment, some acquired thirdhand from various foreign sources. The armor inventory included fifty-four light tanks, all of United States or Belgian origin (see table 19, Appendix). The army also had Belgian-, United States-, and Brazilian-made armored vehicles. APCs included United States and West German models. Artillery pieces and air defense guns were of Swedish, Argentine, and United States manufacture.
In general, the entire inventory was aging and in need of modernization, but economic considerations—combined with the absence of a significant internal or external threat—made it unlikely that new equipment would be ordered in the near future.
Army officers were trained at the four-year Military Academy, from which they were commissioned as second lieutenants. The army's School of Arms and Services provided specialist training for recruits and officers. The Command and Staff School trained mid-level officers for promotion to staff or field positions.
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