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Colombia: The Military Education System
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Organization of the Armed Forces > Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia


In the 1980s, the military education system continued to play a critical role in the formation of a professional officer corps. With the exception of officers trained in medicine or law, all commissioned officers were graduates of one of the three service academies. The Military Cadet School, the army's service academy, represented the backbone of the military's professional education system. The school's rigorous training program ranged from three to five years, depending upon the entrant's prior level of education. Reportedly, coursework in military science was emphasized during a cadet's final year of study. Beginning in the 1960s, increased emphasis was placed on courses dealing with national security and international relations. Fields of specialization included economics, engineering, and international law and diplomatic studies.

The navy's service academy, known simply as the Naval Academy, was established in 1938 in Cartagena. It offered a four-year course for youth who planned a career in either the navy, the marine corps, or the merchant marine. Navy cadets spent nearly a year at sea on the navy's sail training ship. The Air Force Cadet School, located in Cali and opened in 1933, placed primary emphasis on the cadets' technical training.

The requirements for admission to the service academies included being a Colombian male by birth, having a minimum of two years' secondary school education, being between eighteen and twenty years of age, and being unmarried. In addition to the physical examination that candidates were required to pass before admission, comprehensive examinations were given in history, geography, mathematics, and Spanish. Performance on these examinations helped determine the candidate's placement in the program.

Postacademy professional training -- coordinated by the command of the BIM -- was provided at a number of schools. In the 1980s, the completion of a number of the schools' programs had become a requirement for a successful military career. The Lancers School (Escuela de Lanceros), created during the 1950s, provided specialized training in counterinsurgency strategy and tactics. Completion of a one-year course at the school reportedly was required of all army personnel before promotion to first lieutenant. Each of the branches of the army -- infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineering, and combat support services -- operated its own applications school, which offered a forty-week training program required for promotion to the rank of captain.

Members of all three armed services were eligible to attend the Superior War College (Escuela Superior de Guerra). Completion of a one-year command and general staff course offered by the college was required for promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Completion of an eleven-month course that emphasized the formulation of national security policy and analysis of national and international affairs was required for promotion to the rank of general or admiral. In addition, an eleven-month course taught at the college, known as the Higher Military Studies Course (Curso de Altos Estudios Militares), was required of all personnel -- usually officers holding the rank of major or lieutenant commander -- before they were eligible for general staff assignments. A select number of Colombian officers also received advanced training in special programs for foreign military personnel that were offered by the United States military's professional schools.

Military officers who had received advanced professional degrees but who had not completed the Superior War College's general staff course, had to complete the special four-month Military Information Course. Another special course offered by the Superior War College was the six-month National Defense Information Course. The course, attended mainly by representatives of Colombia's governmental agencies and other civilian organizations, was designed to provide basic information on the military's mission and organization as well as to familiarize civilian personnel with the military's perspectives on national policy.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. 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

Colombia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 166 of 188


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