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Interview with Gen. José Burone, Deputy Head of the Uruguayan Defense General Staff

Interview with Gen. José Burone, Deputy Head of the Uruguayan Defense General Staff

By Dialogo
June 14, 2011

In March, Diálogo magazine met with Gen. José Burone, deputy chief of the Uruguayan Defense General Staff, a body recently created in that South American country as part of the modernization of the Armed Forces.

Among other posts, Gen. Burone has served as director of the Military Higher Education Institute (IMES) and as head of the Army General Staff, until being promoted to his current position. With this background, he spoke with Diálogo about the importance of the IMES, Uruguay’s contribution to peace-keeping operations, and the experiences they can share with other countries.

Diálogo: What is the IMES?

General Burone: The IMES is an institute whose abbreviation stands for the Military Higher Education Institute (Instituto Militar de Estudios Superiores). It has a long history in the professional education of the National Army’s officer corps. In 1928, the first General Staff course began, and in 1932, what is today known as the IMES was formally created. It is currently a university-level institute, and in particular, its fundamental mission is to offer mandatory training courses for officers who are being promoted to colonel and for those who are being promoted to the ranks of field-grade officers (majors), for training in command operations and leadership. The school also offers a General Staff course to train field-grade officers to serve as command advisors at different levels.

In accordance with its regulations, the institute today includes the following schools: the School of Advanced Studies, intended for officers with the rank of colonel, and the Command and General Staff School, which offers the course for majors and for those who opt to do the General Staff course. For their part, the Army Language School, the Army Strategy School, and the School of Military Engineering are also part of the institute, each with a specific function. At the same time, a series of basic courses and other academic extension courses are offered, such as a course on the environment (see the course offerings), on different rationales for armed conflict, strategic intelligence, etc. All the courses are designed to meet the Army’s needs, but they also include the participation of civilians from different areas, from both the public and private sectors. In sum, the academic extension courses seek to link the civilian and military spheres in an academic environment.

Diálogo: What is the duration of the courses?

General Burone: The course for colonels has a duration of up to one year, according to the regulations in effect. Nevertheless, it’s currently extended by a semester, with the particular characteristic that at the end there’s a joint module in which officers from the other branches of the Armed Forces participate. The same thing happens with the General Staff course. Nevertheless, the latter has the particular characteristic that it is held in two phases. During the first year, all the officers who are being promoted to field-grade rank attend, and it’s mandatory. In the second year, the General Staff course is offered only for those who obtain a post there.

Diálogo: Are foreign students accepted?

General Burone: There are always foreign students, especially in the General Staff course. The participants who attend almost every year come from Argentina and Brazil. We’ve also had students from the United States, Paraguay, South Korea, etc. Beyond the knowledge that these courses can provide in academic terms, it’s very important to stress the interpersonal ties that are created in this environment. In the future, many of our students will occupy important posts in the Armed Forces and will facilitate relations among the institutions of their different countries.

COURSE LIST: http://www.imes.edu.uy/cursos%202011

Diálogo: In addition to serving as director of the Military Higher Education Institute and as head of the Army General Staff, you are director of the National Peace Operations System. Consequently, and changing the subject, could you tell me why Uruguay has been so committed to peace-keeping operations?

General Burone: Uruguay is on the list of the ten countries around the world that contribute the most troops to the United Nations and is one of the leading contributors in Latin America. In reality, participation translates into support for the Army and for the government’s foreign policy. There’s even a support mission that we’re carrying out that is not within the United Nations framework, and that’s the transportation and engineering group that we have in the Sinai Peninsula, which would fall under the Camp David accords signed between Egypt and Israel with U.S. sponsorship in September 1978.

Our contingent has been in that region since 1982, and although it’s a peace mission that’s not under the United Nations flag, it represents what Uruguay’s foreign policy has been with regard to its contribution to world peace through its participation in missions of this kind. These missions began in 1928, with participation in the peace mission prior to the War of the Northern Chaco [between Paraguay and Bolivia, from 1933 to 1935].

The first peace mission developed by way of the first observer mission sent by Uruguay to Kashmir, in the region of Pakistan. From then on, the country continued collaborating with peace-keeping missions, which became more important with the Cambodian mission in 1992, when we participated with our first really large contingent, with battalions in a jungle area. For us, that was truly a challenge. Then came the mission to Mozambique, another to Angola, and today we have a presence in the Congo and Haiti. In that respect, I can affirm that Uruguay has had a presence in United Nations peace operations with significant contingents in a large part of the world.

At present, the number of personnel carrying out this mission has become excessive with regard to the Army’s capacity to maintain this support. The original concept was to maintain one operational battalion constantly involved in peace-keeping operations. In 2010, going to Haiti was supported, and the time period for the mission in the Congo was extended starting in 2004.

This represents a major effort on the part of the approximately 2,000 personnel we have deployed, and in addition to that, there are 2,500 who train three months ahead of time for everything having to do with the relief contingent. Without a doubt, this has a partial impact on carrying out the other missions of the Armed Forces and the Army, and the country’s domestic mission in particular.

Diálogo: What are the peace-keeping experiences that Uruguay can share with other nations?

General Burone: We have the Uruguayan National Peace Operations School (ENOPU). Courses are offered there in which we have foreign participants and in which the knowledge imparted has not been only theoretical, but also the instructors’ entire past experience. More recently, we’ve also participated in advising the Paraguayan Army on their deployment of a contingent of engineers to Haiti, and we’ve sent instructors to the Peace Operations School in Central America. In that respect, we’re always ready to offer our collaboration.

How great that this entity exists, inside a military institute aimed at enhancement and preparation to provide military training for different levels and/or hierarchies, because in that way they become more professional in their army duties and also the absolute independence of the State or Governments – Armed Forces