The main mission of the Chief of Studies at the Inter-American Defense College (IADC) is to contribute to the education of professionals so that, once they finish their studies, they can be assigned to high-level advisory roles in their countries of origin. This position is currently the responsibility of Mexican Army Brigadier General Arturo Javier González Jiménez. As an alumnus of his country’s staff college, he represents his country as well as the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense at the IADC. General González welcomed Diálogo at his office in Washington, D.C. to talk about the 56th class of students and the school under his leadership.
Diálogo: What is your main goal as Chief of Studies at IADC?
Brigadier General Arturo Javier González Jiménez: My main goal is actually to contribute to the objectives of the Inter-American Defense College, the management directives, which are basically to fulfill our mission, to educate high-level military and civilian advisors, not only in the armed forces but in the national police and, of course, in any government ministry in the countries comprising the Organization of American States.
Diálogo: What background does a candidate for the job of Chief of Studies need to have?
Brig. Gen. González: Basically, I can now say that my country proposed that I take on this job primarily because of my standing in the hierarchy. It has usually been occupied by generals, as we can see in the portraits of the chiefs of studies who have gone through this institution. I would put this as the first fundamental requirement since a certain authority is required, a certain discipline, given that the majority of our students are colonels or lieutenant colonels. Thus, some authority is necessary in that sense. But again, the educational aspects are most important, having experience in education, in the educational process, that is, some formal background or training in areas related to education, to be prepared academically. And most of all, [the candidate should have] graduate and post-graduate studies, in order to be at the level that the academic rigor demands here at the Inter-American Defense College.
Diálogo: Is it required that the candidate be a graduate of this institution as well?
Brig. Gen. González: It is not a requirement. Although in order to be selected in my country, I was required to have graduated from the institution. I was previously here as a military attaché as well, a delegate assigned to the Inter-American Defense Board, and as part of my coursework, I achieved proficiency in the four languages spoken at the Inter-American Defense College, which are English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Diálogo: How many students are there, and what countries do IADC students come from?
Brig. Gen. González: There are 64 students from 17 countries. In alphabetical order, they are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and, obviously, the United States.
Diálogo: Are there always 64?
Brig. Gen. González: Today, the Inter-American College can basically take on a class of 70 students. That is, approximately two students per member country of the Organization of American States. Why do we have, for example, seven students from Brazil? Why do we have nine students from Colombia? Why do we have six from Mexico? Why do we have seven from Peru and eight from the United States? Actually, we do so to fill the spaces left by countries that have not sent students to the IADC.
Diálogo: What are the requirements to become a student at the IADC?
Brig. Gen. González: To pursue master’s work, the first requirement is that their academic achievements include a bachelor’s degree. They arrive here in July and graduate in June. And when they finish, they depart having completed their course work, and after being passing their final exams, they basically return to their countries with their master’s accreditation.
Diálogo: What about the civilians?
Brig. Gen. González: They come representing the foreign affairs ministries of their countries. The secretariats or ministries related to the issues of migration, borders, federal police, national police, and, in the case of the United States, the Department of State. Therefore, military personnel are required to have a degree from a staff college. And civilians are required to have coursework in their own field, but with years of service comparable to those of military personnel, lieutenant colonels or colonels. They must have attained a certain number of years of service within their state ministry or secretariat in order to have comparable experience to that of a colonel or lieutenant colonel in the armed forces.
Diálogo: What language are classes taught in?
Brig. Gen. González: Classes are taught simultaneously in four languages. That is, Professor Roberto Pereira, from Argentina, gives his classes in his native language, which is Spanish, and we have interpreters that interpret it into the other three languages simultaneously through headphones. If we bring in a guest lecturer from Brazil, the lecturer gives the lecture in Portuguese and the students listen to the language they choose, making use of the interpretation service we have at the college.
Diálogo: How do you manage so many different cultures?
Brig. Gen. González: It is an adaptation process. That’s what I call it. When I had just arrived to assume the role of Chief of Studies, one of my lectures, believe it or not, was actually a special presentation for all the course members of the previous class, the 55th class. My goal was actually to go through this process of adaptation myself. The adaptation comes from us as students, as directors, and personnel at the college, as well as the adaptation that takes place in the students’ families. Each family also needs a rather extreme process of adaptation. All of us, on our first opportunity visiting this country, go through this process. Independently of individuals, families, I believe, are the ones who suffer more, especially when they have no background in the language or culture, or the laws of the country. Thus, in this sense, I believe that we all have to go through this adaptation process to integrate with the U.S. system, with the laws, and with the processes, which are different in each of the countries that comprise the Organization of American States.
Diálogo: You have spoken a bit about the students. Can you also talk about the teachers? That is, what background should a potential teacher at the IADC have?
Brig. Gen. González: Basically, they should have a doctorate in order to teach at the master’s level, which is what is taught here at the college today: a Master of Science in Defense and Inter-American Security. This is the name given to the day-to-day course of study at the Inter-American College. We are also mindful of maintaining an even representation of countries, but, of course, they are contracted through various sources. Some of them are contracted by the Inter-American Defense Board, others are provided by the countries in the form of a national contribution. This year for example, Brazil has contributed two professors: Dr. Paulo Edvandro Costa Pinto and Professor Carlos Eduardo Acevedo. They are considered Brazil’s national contribution to the college faculty. We also have the support of the United States, which every one or two years names a professor from the Department of State who must also have knowledge of the inter-American system. We have guest adjunct professors who are invited by the permanent faculty members. In this case, we have Professor Manuel Lora, from Peru, who is an adjunct professor. We have Dr. Mirles, from Cuba. We have Dr. Eduardo Roberto Pereira, from Argentina, and Professor Daniel Macís, who is one of the school’s longest-serving faculty members and represents the United States, but is originally from Costa Rica. So, as fundamental requirements, [a candidate] must have a doctoral degree in one of the areas taught here at the college. We have the economics area, taught by Dr. Reyes, of Cuba. We have strategic thinking subjects focused on military areas by Dr. Pereira, whose background includes having been an admiral in his country. That is, a retired serviceman who today holds a doctorate and is a faculty professor. We also have Dr. Costa Pinto, who specializes in human rights and international law. That is, it is also a selection by the college, the management, from the countries who are also invited to participate in available areas. And they are invited to appoint professors as well, of course.