The female cadets, pioneers in the field of war studies at Agulhas Negras Military Academy, can now rise to the general officer ranks.
The Brazilian Army’s Agulhas Negras Military Academy (AMAN, in Portuguese), a 207-year-old institution, kicked off 2018 with a new twist: by welcoming women. Among the 414 new cadets arriving from the Army Cadets Preparatory School (EsPCEx, in Portuguese), 33 were part of the first female class to graduate. The future combatants are also pioneers in the field of war studies within the Army, able to rise to the rank of general.
Since 2012, AMAN has been reviewing measures to adapt its facilities, revise the curriculum, and prepare its faculty as well as its officers and enlisted members for female admissions. According to Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) Colonel Paulo Roberto Corialano, deputy commander of AMAN since 2017, female instructors were assigned to basic training, serving as assistants to subunit commanders and taking part in specific training.
“Our female instructors performed activities that female cadets will carry out over the course of this year. They participated in forums, leadership internships, traineeships to supervise field operations, and administrative activities associated with the cadets’ daily schedule,” Col. Corialano said. He added that female instructors participated in an internship on including women in the military field of war studies at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) in West Point.
The biggest challenge this first year, according to Col. Corialano, is to put the plan into practice. Female cadets will take the same classes and receive the same instruction as the other students. “Some adjustments were made, particularly in relation to physical training. They will perform the same trainings and physical exercises; however approval ratings will differ to take female physiological characteristics in consideration. The Army Research Institute for Physical Training tested, evaluated, and validated the ratings,” Col Corialano explained.
At AMAN, cadets continue the training started at EsPCEx, staying on for four years. Upon completion, students become combat officers. According to Col. Corialano, female students’ career path lies with courses on Logistics or War Materiel. “In the troop, they’ll be qualified to command and lead platoons and companies in their respective service area or corps,” he said.
A cadet shares her experience
Cadet Maria Cecília da Silva Vieira, an 18-year-old who is among AMAN’s 33 new female students, shared with Diálogo her first months of schooling at the military academy. “It’s even more intense than at EsPCEx. It’s more structured at AMAN, and the routine is more intense—but the biggest difference is living with cadets from other classes, because back at prep school, it was just our class,” Cadet Cecília said.
For her, the year-long training at EsPCEx was key to adjusting to AMAN. “I grew up a lot during the preparation phase for military service,” Cadet Cecília, said, sharing how sleep management and physical exhaustion are the greatest difficulties. “We have to learn how to live with very little free time. Also, I feel very homesick; but at the same time, I’m fulfilled,” she said.
The daily routine begins at 5 a.m. Students clean up their dorm rooms and await the barracks inspection. After breakfast, at 6:15 a.m., daily activities begin. “We fall in for morning formation, and right after that, the classroom instruction begins, with 10-minute intervals between each class, until 11:30. After lunch, at 13:30, we resume classes, and at about 15:50 our military physical training begins, until about 18:00. At 18:35, we have dinner, and at 19:00, we fall in for evening formation,” Cadet Cecília said.
Free time to study or do homework, Cadet Cecília said, is only from 8:30 p.m. to curfew at 10 p.m. “One day a week, we exclusively do military activities,” she added.
According to Cadet Cecília, who will be pursuing a career in the Quartermaster Corps, cadets eased into the new schedule and environment. “We thought it’d be more difficult, but everyone was well-prepared for our arrival. There are the usual first-year hurdles, but everything has gone smoothly,” she said.
Although she realizes the importance of her role as a female pioneer, Cadet Cecília admits not knowing what her footprint will truly represent. “We’re so caught up with the routine of the academy that we don’t reflect much on what’s happening. I think that in the future, we’ll have a better sense of what we’re building,” Cadet Cecília said.
Female inclusion in the military
Col. Corialano noted that with women now coming into a combat role, EB becomes an increasingly balanced institution suited to the types of conflicts of today. “It’s worth noting that even before, women were already making great contributions in other areas, such as health, science and technology, and support [administrative services and education, among other areas]. Their presence was always a plus, and it won’t be any different in combat,” he said.
According to information from the Army’s Social Communication Center, approximately 10,000 women make up EB’s total personnel of 220,000 service members as of January 2018. Female inclusion began in World War II with nurses of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. In 1992, the first class of 49 women was enrolled at the Army School of Continuing Education (formerly the Army School of Administration) in Salvador, in the state of Bahia. Over the years, the remaining training schools also began including women on faculty and in student bodies. Admission to AMAN is done through EsPCEx, which will now allocate 10 percent of the slots to women each year.