Personnel and Training - Sociology of the Officer Corps
Throughout the period since 1930, officers have been drawn largely
from the urban middle class. Although the middle and upper classes
have always gone to great lengths to avoid having their sons serve
as common soldiers, the opportunity for a free education has also
attracted young men without better alternatives to the officer corps.
Because of its emphasis on education, merit, and performance, the
officer corps offers more opportunities for advancement than is
the case in the political and socioeconomic spheres where family
ties, friendships, connections, and money play a larger role.
A key factor shaping officers' attitudes has been the military
educational system. However, changes in location, number, and function
of the military schools, as well as changes in curricula, teaching
staffs, equipment, and living and training facilities, have made
it difficult to develop lasting traditions and a sense of commonality
among the graduates. Moreover, the changes have deepened generational
Under Brazil's military education system, officers in a particular
class form a turma , which is often a lifelong association. The
turmas that officers are in at graduation are monitored carefully
thereafter. Since World War II, the socialization process has involved
the deliberate reinforcement of turma ties, including the interlinking
of turmas by the Armed Forces General Staff. For some officers,
the process may have begun in one of the twelve Military Schools
(CMs) at the age of fourteen or fifteen. From the day they enter
the AMAN, marching through the new cadets' gate, until they leave
through the aspirants' (aspirantes ) gate, the educational and training
experience brings them together in a world that emphasizes unity
Spread over forty-two weeks each year, the AMAN curriculum blends
military training with postsecondary studies. First-year cadets
receive eight hours per week of military instruction, while second-
and third-year cadets receive twelve and sixteen hours, respectively.
The rest of their time is devoted to physical education, academic
subjects, and study. In January and February, fourth-year cadets
are sent to units in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo,
or Minas Gerais to help train recruits for four weeks; they return
to the same units for two weeks in June and a week in October to
gain experience with the same soldiers further along in the training
In the first year at the AMAN, cadets are housed by turma , and
thereafter they are quartered in multi-turma groups by service and
branch--infantry, artillery, cavalry, engineering, quartermaster,
communications, and war matériel. This early branch selection
mirrors Brazilian civilian university procedure, which also forces
career or professional selection at the outset. Considering that
AMAN enrollment averages 1,400 and that graduating turmas tend to
be between 300 and 400, it is relatively easy to know a large number
of contemporary cadets. As the officer progresses from aspirante
to colonel, the turma becomes an increasingly important identification.
The army's educational system reinforces the turmas and seeks to
knit them together across generations. The army's personnel department
tries to form the new class at the EsAO from the same AMAN turma
; the same is true for those who pass the competitive examinations
for the ECEME. In the intervening years, they have served together
in units throughout Brazil and have formed close bonds with commanders
and subordinates from other turmas .
Student officers reach the ECEME in early middle age as majors
and lieutenant colonels. They usually are married and have children.
However, many officers in the ECEME cannot afford to bring their
families to Rio de Janeiro for the two years. Except for the few
who have their own quarters, the student officers live in apartments
next to the school on Praia Vermelha for the two-year course, forming
tight relationships that embrace whole families. Thereafter, the
ECEME relationship takes precedence, for only command school graduates
move upward. The ECEME has the effect of producing midcareer male
bonding, and it turns out articulate, active, and well-prepared
administrators, planners, and commanders.
Within the turma , ties are maintained informally by birthday and
promotion telegrams and by meeting for discussions, when a number
of members are stationed near each other. As the turma members progress
through their careers, they tend to expand the group's contacts.
Turmas may attach themselves to an upwardly mobile officer, or such
an officer may seek ties with a turma in which he has trusted men
(homens de confiança ) on whom he can call when he has openings
in his command.
ECEME instructors, who are often appointed for their academic achievements
and staff performance and who are upwardly mobile by definition,
establish ties with the turmas they teach. Often when these instructors
hold command positions, they turn to their former students to fill
subordinate slots. For example, João Figueiredo was a student
of Ernesto Geisel at the ECEME. There is a structural link between
the ECEME and the AMAN in that many of the field-grade officers
assigned to the AMAN are customarily ECEME graduates, and by regulation
the history and geography courses must be given by officers wearing
the command school insignia. In this fashion, the officer generations
get knitted together, thereby contributing to institutional unity.
ECEME graduates shape and execute military doctrine. They are the
military elite, filling staff positions in the national and regional
commands. From their ranks come all the general officers.
Data as of April 1997