Forging Leaders in the Region

Forging Leaders in the Region

By Geraldine Cook
January 01, 2012

From the time he was a little boy, Hans Weisser dreamed of more than the
ordinary life: He strived to be part of the Chilean Military

From the time he was a little boy, Hans Weisser dreamed of more than the
ordinary life: He strived to be part of the Chilean Military. Today he is enrolled
in the country’s most prestigious school. “I come from a military family. My father
is in the military, my uncle is in the military, my cousins are in the military, and
my brother is in the military,” said Cadet Major Hans Weisser. “It’s been a
tradition in my family for some time, and when I had the opportunity to enroll in
the school, I did.”
Cadet Maj. Weisser is a senior in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins Military School,
located in the heart of Santiago. Since the school’s inception, it has upheld the
ideals set forth by its namesake and country patriot, General Bernardo O’Higgins.
Founded in 1817, the Military School has been forging future military leaders for
195 years. In 1896, the Chilean Army underwent a transformation of its entire
structure. German military instructors arrived and instituted a new doctrine that
reshaped the education, forms of discipline and even the uniforms, adding Prussian
helmets. Today, these changes remain standard at the school and throughout the
Chilean Army.

“The Military School is open to all those who want something beyond the
ordinary life,” said Colonel Rodrigo Carrasco, director of the school. The
prerequisites for applying are similar to other military institutions and include
thorough physical, psychological and aptitude tests. Of the nearly 2,000 yearly
applicants, only 13 percent pass. Also mandatory for acceptance is a basic
understanding of the English language with the ability to read, write and speak. On
average, the school admits 240 new students each year.
In addition to four years of academics, cadets – known as Black Eagles – are
also trained in leadership, behavioral conduct, physical fitness and professional
military expertise. At the end of their senior year, cadets must choose a military
field, a decision that usually marks the rest of their career. Some of those fields
include infantry, artillery, armored cavalry, engineering and telecommunications.

“For me, the school has been a place where I have been able to develop many
of my abilities, and I am very happy with what I’ve achieved and with what the
school has given me,” said Cadet Maj. Weisser, currently the top-ranked senior at
the school. The Cadet Major was awarded his rank at the beginning of his senior year
for being the top academic student in his class. “After I graduate, I hope to be one
of the best junior officers in the Army and go on to command a platoon.”
The school also offers an exchange program with countries in the region,
which have included Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and the United States. The
program allows cadets to study at other military institutions, giving them the
opportunity to learn about other countries’ cultures, customs and traditions. By the
same token, the Bernardo O’Higgins Military School welcomes students from different
parts of the world. Currently the school has two cadets from Ecuador enrolled in the
full four-year program, after which they will return to their country with an
undergraduate degree.
The exchange experience

For Paola Eugenia Vargas, an Ecuadorean cadet in her final year at the
school, living in Chile for the past four years has been one of the best experiences
of her life. Once she returns to her country and is commissioned an officer, Cadet
Vargas hopes to use the lessons of her experiences to enhance the Ecuadorean Army.
“The most important thing I’ve learned here at the school is their command and
control doctrine,” she said. “My goal is to apply everything that I’ve learned here
and help reshape Ecuador’s command and control strategy because I know it will be
U.S. and Chilean students participating in the Military School’s exchange
program benefit from six months of training at the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point. This allows students from one institution to study at the other, increasing
understanding. “It’s very important that we have strong connections with our allies
and understand their side of things and their military so that way we can have joint
operations and unity is easier to facilitate,” said West Point Cadet Eric Uribe, an
exchange student enrolled in Bernardo O’Higgins Military School. “I hope to take
back a lot of leadership experience that I’ve learned from a lot of my peers.
Leadership is not just what you have, but a combination of the good things you see
in other people.”
Col. Carrasco said the Bernardo O’Higgins Military School is a symbol and
source of pride not only for the Army, but for Chile as a whole. He concluded, “This
is a school where leaders are formed and where students are challenged to achieve
success as well as accept defeat for the purpose of trying again.”
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I would like to meet Cadet Hans Weisser ♥