Chilean Navy Opens Military Service to Women

Chilean Navy Opens Military Service to Women

By Felipe Lagos/Diálogo
April 30, 2018

The Chilean Armed Forces move forward at full speed with gender integration and equality policy.

For the first time in the history of the Chilean Navy, women joined its voluntary military service. In early April, the Navy welcomed the women who will be part of the institution’s first female class.

More than 500 women participated in the selection process, of which 30 made it to the military service. A total of 359 young men and women officially joined the Navy on April 6th, at the Naval Recruit Training Center (CENIR, in Spanish), located on Quiriquina Island in the Bay of Concepción.

“Having them perform their military service in our ranks is a major event for the Chilean Navy, a milestone in the integration process of women as equals with their male counterparts,” said Navy Captain Fernando Borcoski Pinto, commandant of the Navy Noncommissioned Officers Academy, to which CENIR belongs. “This way, more service options open up for women in the naval and maritime fields, which will allow them to perform important functions in various units and divisions,” he told Diálogo.

The 22-month-long military service will be performed under ordinary conscription and will begin with a four-month basic training stage at CENIR. The second professional development stage will be carried out at various naval installations throughout Chile.

All 30 women will receive the same theoretical instruction, basic physical and vocational training as men. Upon completion of the conscription period, they may apply to the Navy Noncommissioned Officers Academy, the Naval Academy, or the professional troops (the last of which begins in 2019).

“When I saw that the Navy had opened up candidatures for women in the military service, I applied because not only is the Navy a fine institution, it’s not an opportunity that presents itself often,” recruit Javiera Pereira told Diálogo. “I am proud to end up in the first class.”

Needed modifications

The selection criteria were similar to those applied to men, such as Chilean nationality, marital status, age (17 to 24), health requirements, and criminal background. To facilitate the entrance of women into military service, the institution initially made 30 spots available. “I hope that, as happened in other branches of the Armed Forces, more spots will be opened soon for women to join the military service,” said Chilean Army Brigadier General Jorge Morales Fernández, general director of National Mobilization.

To admit women, the institution modified its facilities, internal rules, and instructor training. CENIR, which quarters and instructs conscripts, opened a new building to house its first female contingent. The building has dormitories for 34 people, laundry facilities, showers, and bathrooms.

“Given that it lacked the proper infrastructure, the institution had to carry out a construction project dedicated to housing female personnel,” Capt. Borcoski said. “Additionally, it was necessary to modify CENIR internal regulations, adapting all its procedures for the incorporation and participation of women. It was also necessary to train instructors for the new mixed contingent.”

Gradual integration

Women’s incorporation into naval military service is in line with a cultural change in the country and follows the policy of integration and equality the government put forth for the Armed Forces. However, the decision marked a milestone for the naval institution, which was the last of the three branches of the Armed Forces to take this step.

The Army began voluntary female military service in 1979 for auxiliary health services and administrative positions. Conscription was suspended in 1988 and reinstated in 2001. The Air Force (FACh, in Spanish) has a similar history, accepting women into military service in 1981 for a 10-year period. As of 2017, women can apply for military service within FACh once again.

“In recent years, the Chilean Navy focused its efforts on the full integration of women into naval careers,” Capt. Borcoski said. “Women have carried out various activities in the institution for nearly a century, gradually joining the service ranks of officers and sailors. By those means, and as part of the gradual process of inclusion and non-discrimination against women, ingress to military service became a reality in April 2018.”

For recruit Francisca Muñoz Aceitón, the opportunity will allow her to follow family members’ footsteps. She looks forward to the training and discipline characteristic of the Navy.

“What stands out to me about the Navy is its conviction, discipline, and the fact that they give all for their country,” Muñoz concluded. “I see them as very brave people and would like to be one of them.”