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Panama: Training
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Administration and Operations of the Defense Forces > Training


Until the 1950s, systematic training had been at best sporadic and at worst nonexistent. During the construction of the canal, United States instructors in police methods were frequently hired, but none stayed more than a few months, and the turnover hurt the already inefficient police force. In 1917 Albert R. Lamb was hired as an instructor for the National Police, and within two years he had been promoted to the post of inspector general. Even after a Panamanian was named commander in 1924, Lamb remained as an inspector and continued to exert an important influence on the police. He was credited with having created a relatively efficient force, but discipline, training, and efficiency declined after he left in 1927.

Police officials during the 1930s and 1940s periodically recommended the establishment of a police training center, but lack of funds always prevented action on such recommendations. In 1946 the National Assembly created the Police School (Escuela de Policía), but even after that decree and even with Remón as commander, the police had difficulties securing sufficient funds to operate a school. As president, Remón was instrumental in arranging for a Venezuelan military mission to advise and assist in establishing the National Guard School (Escuela de Formación de Guardias Nacionales), forerunner of the present-day CIM and the Police Training Academy (Academía de Capacitación Policial -- ACAPOL).

Under the leadership of General Torrijos, training for both officers and enlisted men improved considerably. In the 1970s, officer training shifted from Central to South America, resulting in a significant upgrading in the quality of professional education received. Although many officers were still promoted from the ranks, the percentage of those with academy training gradually increased. By 1979 some 315 of 700 officers were academy graduates.

Since the early 1950s, approximately 5,000 Panamanian officers and enlisted men have been trained by the United States. Although some of these students were sent to the United States, the majority attended United States facilities located in the former Canal Zone, including the United States Army School of the Americas, the InterAmerican Air Forces Academy at Albrook Air Force Base, and the Small Craft Instruction and Training School at the Naval Support Facility near the Pacific end of the canal. Although in the late 1980s some FDP personnel still received training at United States facilities, their numbers were reduced because the School of the Americas moved to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984. Nevertheless, for the majority of Panamanian officers, the command and staff course given at the School of the Americas remained the final rung on the educational ladder.

One of the FDP's most important training facilities was the CIM located near Panama City at Fort Cimarrón. It housed the Airborne School and offered a parachute-rigging course in addition to its responsibility for the basic training of recruits and the refresher training of all military personnel, in subjects such as patrolling, first aid, and map reading. Besides providing regular teaching and field training, the facility assisted in the development of new courses of instruction designed to keep the organization abreast of innovations and current methods of military operation. Its commandant, usually a major or captain, was assisted by an executive officer and a staff and faculty consisting of officers and sergeants.

Another Panamanian school, the General Tomás Herrera Military Institute (Instituto Militar General Tomás Herrera), was located at Omar Torrijos Military Base in Río Hato. Established in 1974 on the model of a Peruvian military high school, it offered training for young people who might some day choose to pursue a military career. It also provided the Defense Forces with technically trained personnel, proficient in developmental fields such as agronomy. As of 1986, ten classes had been graduated from the institute and many of its students were receiving scholarships to various military academies throughout Latin America.

The José Domingo Espinar Educational Center was an FDP training facility that replaced the United States Army School of the Americas. Located near Colón, this center was named after the Panamanian patriot who first declared territorial independence from Colombia. It had a number of different faculties and offered a variety of courses on subjects such as basic criminal investigations, basic intelligence, English language, and radio communications. It also offered a promotion course for future noncommissioned officers. The ACAPOL, which offered basic police training, was housed in this facility. The academy offered a wide variety of courses to both officers and enlisted personnel, and high-level seminars dealing with national problems. The importance of this facility within the educational structure of the Defense Forces was indicated by the fact that its commander in the mid1980s was a lieutenant colonel.

Other FDP training facilities included the Benjamín Ruíz School for Noncommissioned Officers (Escuela de Suboficiales Benjamín Ruíz), the Command and Special Operations School (Escuela de Comando y Operaciones Especiales), and the Pana-Jungla School (Escuela Pana-Jungla). The School for Noncommissioned Officers was established in 1986 at Omar Torrijos Military Base. It was primarily a training facility designed to identify prospective second lieutenants. Secondary school graduates went through a twoyear training program and were awarded the rank of first sergeant. Following two years of "on-the-job training' and additional courses, the best of the group became second lieutenants. The Command and Special Operations School was a facility for training members of the infantry companies in various types of special activities. Graduates were mostly sergeants with more than ten years of military service. The Pana-Jungla School was located in Bocas del Toro Province along the Río Teribe and near the Costa Rican border. Commanded by a major, it offered training in jungle survival skills to both Panamanian soldiers and military personnel from other countries.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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