Improving human capital, maintaining and increasing operational readiness and strategic planning are the challenges that General Javier Eduardo Iturriaga del Campo, Commander of the Chilean Army, set out when he assumed command on March 9, 2022.
General Iturriaga spoke with Dialogo on his vision of command, human capital and institutional capabilities for mission success.
Dialog: You are the 61st commander-in-chief of the army. What is your biggest challenge as Commander-in-Chief?
General Javier Eduardo Iturriaga del Campo, Commander of the Chilean Army: My mission is to promote the modernization processes that will allow us to meet the challenges of present modern times, in accordance with the mandate that the Constitution and the laws impose, and the daily demands of our citizens, whom we serve.
The most important challenge centers on our soldiers, preparing them, motivating them, instructing them, training them, giving them the respect and the opportunities for professional and personal growth that they deserve. Chile has an army of professionals made up of motivated people with a high vocation of service to their country, which we must not only maintain, but also strengthen, because only with them can we successfully meet all the challenges. that the future requires. from U.S.
Dialog: In your inaugural speech, you announced four major lines of action: human capital, exercising command with a human sense at all levels, maintaining and increasing operational readiness and strategic planning. What strategies do you implement for their success?
General Iturriaga: The basic strategies and responsibility for the implementation of these four lines of action are multiple and range from our educational system to the management of the commanders in each unit. We cannot focus on this command, but it must be understood as a mission to be fulfilled by all of us who are part of the Army. For this reason, in my first weeks, I visited most units in the country to speak directly with all the officers, NCOs (NCOs) and soldiers who are part of them, to deliver to them this concept of command and explain to them that, in it, we all have a mission to fulfill.
These visits included the units that are deployed in the field and, faithful to the message that I want to convey of confidence and example, it was a question of spending several days with our soldiers to know first hand their aspirations, their difficulties and their projects.
Our real strength, as a military institution, lies in our people, in their unity, cohesion and effectiveness, in the fact that we can all fully exercise our vocation of service, on the basis of merit and effort. staff.
I can say that, in this journey that I will continue throughout my mandate, I have been able to observe that Chile not only has one of the most professional and best equipped armies in the region, recognized both inside and outside, but that it is also made up of men and women of great vocation and highly professional.
Dialog: What new capabilities does the Chilean army’s aviation brigade have?
General Iturriaga: The Army Aviation Brigade plays a fundamental role within the defense structure of our institution, but at the same time, it is an excellent tool for us to help the community in the event of a disaster or emergency, that’s why we’ve boosted its versatile capabilities.
Our helicopters have been equipped with 1,000 and 1,300 liter Bambi Buckets water systems to fight forest fires, as well as external cargo hook systems to transport food, animal fodder, among others, in order to quickly bring aid to isolated areas. We also empower them to fulfill their search and rescue role with thermal imaging cameras (FLIR) and other specialized tools. The brigade has a specific and highly qualified unit to carry out these tasks, the air rescue unit.
Our helicopters and planes have been equipped with stretchers to transport the sick and injured, as well as the sick [medical] variable complexity and capabilities that have been extremely useful during the recent pandemic.
Finally, the goal is for our crews to be able to fly 24 hours a day and in all weather conditions if necessary, so we have also equipped them with night vision binoculars.
Dialog: The Army War Academy has foreign officers. How do these international exchanges take place?
General Iturriaga: The Chilean Army is proud to have one of the oldest war academies in the world, which is about to celebrate its 136th anniversary. In this long trajectory, he has not only been fundamental for the instruction of our officers, but also in the creation of similar academies in several Latin American countries (Ecuador, Colombia and El Salvador), where many of his teachers have taught, as they have done and still do in national universities.
Today, the Academy welcomes students and teachers from Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico and the United States, as well as Chilean Navy and Air Force officers.
Exchanges and activities with the armies of partner countries take place in accordance with our role of cooperation in international matters and within the framework of Chile’s permanent policy of contributing to peace between nations, fully coordinated with the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
The War Academy is open to civilians, and since 2015 we have Chilean officials from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in our courses; we teach master’s degrees in military history and strategic thinking, disaster risk planning and management, and strategic planning and management, to anyone who wishes to pursue them.
Dialog: Exercise Southern Vanguard is conducted with US Army South. What other types of exchanges do you do and what are the benefits?
General Iturriaga: One of our mission areas is to contribute to international cooperation and our country’s foreign policy, and as part of this, the Army maintains an extensive regional and international knowledge and cooperation program with partner nations. . The Chilean armed forces are currently participating in several peacekeeping missions, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Colombia and the Middle East, and in this region they also participate in exercises such as the US Southern Command’s Southern Vanguard.
Last year  we did this exercise in our mountains, almost 3,000 meters above sea level, where American soldiers shared their experiences with our soldiers in the Portillo area (about 100 kilometers from Santiago) for 13 days with a high level training for the participants.
We have Exercise Volcano between Chile and Argentina, Special Operations Exercise Southern Star between Chile and the United States, and Exercise Worthington Challenger, hosted by the Canadian military. There are also exchanges between the American and Chilean military academies, such as West Point and the Bernardo O’Higgins military school, the Sandhurst competition and the humanitarian assistance exercise organized by the French armies in the Pacific.
In Europe, we have seen several trainings such as the British Army’s Cambrian Patrol and space operations and cyber defense exercises with Spain and Portugal.
These operations have important advantages, because they allow us to fraternize with the military of other countries, to know them and to know how they operate. These exercises provide our soldiers with an irreplaceable life experience — like operating with soldiers from other countries and in another language — which corresponds to one of the main objectives of our command, which is to strengthen their capacities and their knowledge and open up new opportunities for their military career.
Dialog: What progress has been made in the professionalization of NCOs?
General Iturriaga: The curricular innovation of our non-commissioned officers, who are the heart of our force, is the priority of the Army Institutional Education System, which has established these new training standards in line with the capacities required by the Army. he army, which has become very demanding, in accordance with the weapon systems that we operate and the functions that we fulfil.
The career path at the school for non-commissioned officers has been updated thanks to the Rebolledo plan, which has changed the professional training of future corporals and sergeants of the institution not only in terms of time, which has gone from a two years of common training and retained one year of professional training. , but also standardized their respective levels to the content of the officer course.
This change has resulted in a series of updates in the professional career: today there is a new basic course for service and arms non-commissioned officers, which would be a third year of training, where the corporal receives his specialization to continue with a training sequence process for permanent staff, which, in turn, ends with a diploma from the Polytechnic Military Academy.
This new training sequence coordinates different knowledge and training required, such as service and armament non-commissioned officer training, where the emphasis is on the consulting field, either as an assistant to the general staff general or as chief of staff. It is important to point out that promotion to the rank of senior non-commissioned officer, the highest honor to which our non-commissioned officers can aspire, is made up of another series of requirements and elements, including a knowledge test which gives greater objectivity to the process.