In 2016, the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) made the entrance exam for its noncommissioned officer (NCO) classes in war studies available to women. At the time, 12,498 female candidates applied for some 100 spots. Each year, entrance exams have about 100 openings; the number of female candidates, however, continues to rise. According to the NCO Academy’s Communication Department, 17,144 women applied to the last 2018 entrance exam.
“I’ve been dreaming of this career my whole life,” said student Stefanny Rodrigues, who passed the exam in 2018. “My father served and always encouraged me by talking about his experiences and how much the Army gave him,” said the future NCO, who started school February 23, 2019, along with 99 women.
EB’s NCO training lasts two years. The first year teaches basic courses, while the second is for specialization. Of the 12 military institutions where students can attend the first year, two admit women in mixed classes. Among those is the 4th Light Artillery Group (4º GACL, in Portuguese), in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, where Rodrigues does her training. Her class has 54 women and 32 men.
In 2019, the new service members will learn about military techniques, weaponry, ammunition, and shooting. The curriculum also includes military leadership, military professional ethics, law, Brazilian military history, and English.
Students take all subjects, including physical military training. “There is no distinction between male and female training. The physical training evaluation is the only activity that has different standards for men and women, to account for physical differences between genders,” said EB Major Fábio Cristiano Taffarel, Admissions chief at the NCO academy.
“We have a busy daily routine that starts at 5 am with cleaning up, organizing our living quarters, instructions, physical training, music, and studies,” said student Bárbara Pinheiro, who just joined the 4º GACL. Her experience with colleagues, Pinheiro said, has been positive. “Unity and camaraderie are important values within military life, so student interactions have positive results,” she said.
At the end of the 48-week basic period, students who met the intellectual, technical, and physical requirements with a minimum passing grade in all subjects move on to specialization. This period is the last stage of the course, said EB Captain Rodrigo da Silva, head instructor of the NCO Training and Graduation Course at the 4º GACL.
At this stage, women can select two out of three NCO training institutions: The Logistics NCO Academy (EsSLog, in Portuguese), or the Army Aviation Training Center (CIAvEx, in Portuguese). EsSLog and CIAvEx train NCOs in technical and logistics areas, with special training in quartermaster, topography, military equipment, and telecommunications maintenance; and aviation maintenance and support for the aeronautics field.
With quartermaster services training, NCOs can provide logistics and administrative support, in combat or peace time, to all EB combatant organizations. With war studies training, they can provide maintenance support to lightweight and heavy weapons, as well as vehicle maintenance, which make them responsible for troops’ operability when fulfilling their missions. NCOs trained in aviation support, can also carry out aircraft support activities such as fueling, firefighting combat, and air traffic control, and provide weather and aeronautics information to EB’s aviation branch.
For Rodrigues, women’s presence in EB is an innovation received “respectfully and with rigor at the same time, considering the responsibilities we will have when we graduate as NCOs.” She still hasn’t decided which area of specialty she will select at the end of the basic period, and instead chooses to live in the moment and appreciate her current accomplishment. “I already fulfilled one of my dreams when I put on my green uniform.”