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Home Facts About SOA / WHINSEC Course Offerings at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
Course Offerings at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation PDF Print E-mail
The U.S Army School of the Americas (SOA) was re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) after the school was nearly closed by a May, 2000 vote in the House of Representatives. The name change is part of an ongoing effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) to clean up the school’s image and distance itself from its history of training some of the worst human rights violators this hemisphere has known.


Responding to increasing grassroots pressure to close the School, the DoD has attempted to re-characterize the school as an institution that teaches respect for democracy and human rights. The “new” school opened on January 17th, 2001 and used the existing SOA course catalog until November, 2001. Ten months after the new school began instructing soldiers, the DoD finally released the course catalog that human rights activists and a Congressional office had been requesting for months.

WHISC Courses

The list of courses below is taken from the web site of WHISC. Quotes are extracted directly from the course descriptions. Italics indicate editorial comments.

The Department of Defense claims that this “new” school exists to promote respect for human rights and respect for civilian authority among members of Latin American militaries. Combat training has always accounted for the majority of the instruction at the school. In 1997, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer examined course attendance records at the SOA and reported, “ ‘Bombs and Bullets’ Most Popular Classes at the U.S. Army School of the Americas.” The course listings below show that this has not changed. Despite the evolving rhetoric, WHISC remains primarily a counter-insurgency combat training school.

I. Clearly Combat Related Courses

Captains Career Course (OPME-3)
Corresponding SOA course: Combined Arms Officer Advance Course

This course is designed to train combined arms company commanders and battalion-level staff officers. . .extensive study of the battle operating system, including intelligence preparation of the battlefield, logistics, combat engineer employment, use of indirect fire and close air support, and civil affairs. . . students then study the tactical level of war and plan military operations at the company and battalion level.”

Command and General Staff Officer Course (OPME-4)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“ . . . Graduates will be able to command battalions, brigades, and equivalent-sized units in peace or war; train these units to accomplish their assigned missions; employ and sustain weapon and equipment systems in combined arms operations; efficiently manage manpower, equipment, money, and time . . .”

Battalion/Brigade Staff Operations Mobile Training Team (MTT 2)
Corresponding SOA course: Battle Staff Operations Course

“This course is conducted by a WHINSEC Mobile Training Team (MTT) deployed to the requesting country. . . The students learn to function as battle staff members at the battalion and brigade level. Decision-making is the course focal point. Students conduct intelligence preparation of the battlefield, prepare personnel, logistics, and civil-military operations estimates, develop courses of action, write orders and annexes, and coordinate the execution of command decisions.”

Joint Operations Course (OPME-5)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

Through formal lectures and ample case study analysis this course trains field-grade officers to function as multinational and joint-operations officers. The training is divided into six sections: National Defense Strategy, Military Instruments of Power, Joint Planning, Crisis-Action Planning, Regional Contingency Planning, and a force-projection wargame. The joint-operations force protection wargame is conducted as a capstone exercise to integrate all previous joint operations instruction.

Joint Operations Mobile Training Team (MTT-1)

“This course is conducted by a WHINSEC Mobile Training Team (MTT) deployed to the requesting country. Similar to the Joint Operations Course, it prepares field-grade officers to function as multinational and joint-operations officers. The training is divided into six sections: National Defense Strategy, Military Instruments of Power, Joint Planning, Crisis-Action Planning, Regional Contingency Planning, and a force-projection wargame. The wargame is designed to integrate all previous joint-operations instruction . . .”

Intelligence Office Course (TAC-2)
Corresponding SOA course: Military Intelligence Officer Course

“This course is designed to train military intelligence officers to perform the duties of a tactical intelligence staff officer in a conventional military environment, and in military operations other than war. Its curriculum provides a working knowledge of the employment of the tactical intelligence cycle: intelligence preparation of the battlefield; use of tactical counterintelligence; security of intelligence information and operations; threat analysis; internal defense and development . . .” 

Engineer Operations Course (TAC-8)
Corresponding SOA course: Sapper Course

“. . . this course trains engineers or other combined arms officers and noncommissioned officers to conduct basic engineer operations through the use of light engineer and light infantry tactics, techniques, and procedures. It also teaches basic medical and communications skills and leadership development. The course is taught in both classroom and field environments, and includes a 96-hour field training exercise in which the students perform simulated missions . . .

Combat engineer operations typically include the use of landmines and other explosives.

Cadet Troop Leader Training Course (LDR-4)
Corresponding SOA courses: Cadet Leadership Development Series

This course provides cadets with training in U.S. military doctrine, new technology and leadership development. Professional-development training is provided through classroom and training scenarios involving the laws of war and human rights. Students receive hands-on training in the use of computer simulations, and night operations and air movement capabilities with the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. They also receive new technology demonstrations. Field training consists of tactical force-on-force operations in which the Multiple Integrated Laser System (MILES) is used . . . ”

Cadet Leadership Development Course – Infantry (LDR-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

This course introduces cadets to the basic fundamentals of operating at the small unit leadership level. During the tactics portion of the training, students learn basic light-infantry squad and platoon operations, air-assault operations planning, and the application of leadership theory in a field environment. The course is designed to produce leaders with character, who are self-aware, adaptable and able to demonstrate the characteristics of a successful military leader.”

Noncommissioned Officer Career Course (NPME-7)

“This course prepares junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to plan and conduct individual and unit training at the squad and platoon-level, and to conduct common task qualification training. Students learn basic leadership skills, NCO duties, responsibilities, authority, and methods of conducting performance-oriented training. Additional instruction for each student integrates a mandated minimum of 12 hours of instruction on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society.”

Senior NCO Professional Development Course (NPME-8)

“This course trains selected noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to lead, train, and direct subordinates at the squad and platoon-level. Instruction focuses on training management, battle staff planning, and squad and platoon tactics. Students acquire additional skills through training in fire support, leadership, communications, and land navigation. The course integrates a mandated minimum 12 hours of instruction on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society.”

The descriptions for the two courses above would lead one to believe that human rights and the rule of law constitute a significant portion of the instruction. Despite receiving nearly half the space in the course descriptions, the five topics listed (human rights, rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, the role of the military in a democratic society) share only a total of 12 hours instruction time in courses that are respectively five and six weeks long. This disproportionate emphasis distracts from the fact that the primary purpose of these courses is combat training, not human rights instruction.

II. Other Courses Including Combat Training and Combat Support

Civil-Military Operations Course (CMS-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to prepare students to serve as Civil Military Officers, either as military officers or as government civilian officials interacting with the military on civil military operations (CMO) activities. It consists of training in military civic action, the proper role of the military in support of civilian authority, civil defense, disaster preparedness/relief, and CMO support to counterdrug activities. . .”

Counterdrug Operations Course (TAC-6)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to provide selected military and law enforcement personnel with specialized training in the development of battalion-level staff and small-unit leadership skills in the areas of planning, leading, and executing counterdrug operations. All training is oriented toward realistic and demanding field operations, and emphasizes staff planning and command and control techniques. Students receive comprehensive instruction and training on the full spectrum of counterdrug tactics and techniques, including: advanced marksmanship; precision operations in urban environments; reconnaissance techniques; clandestine airfield interdiction techniques; drug laboratory destruction and safety considerations; and tactical patrolling operations. Students are rotated through leadership and staff-planning positions for optimal experience and learning opportunities.”

“We cannot continue to make a false distinction between counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics efforts.” Robert Zoellick, a top foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush. 

The 1.3 billion dollar military aid package to Colombia includes a “push into southern Colombia.” Army troops, often working in conjunction with paramilitary groups force guerillas out of a given area before the coca fumigation planes come in. Both of these processes result in human rights violations and massive displacement of the civilian population. Plan Colombia makes crystal clear what many have suspected for a long time: U.S. counterdrug efforts are another form of the counter-insurgency warfare that has had such devastating impacts on the people of Latin America. The military official overseeing both the fumigation and the “push into southern Colombia” is Gen. Montoya, an SOA graduate with documented ties to paramilitary activity.

Information Operations (TAC-4)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course gives students a common baseline of Information Operations (IO) knowledge upon which to correctly and legally employ IO tools and techniques . . . Students learn to plan, organize, and supervise the integration of all resources into effective IO campaigns in military operations peace and in times of conflict. Students are instructed in the critical roles of public affairs and civic action in command and control (C2) operations, as well as the separation of these abilities to ensure institutional credibility, effectiveness, and international legitimacy. The course concludes with a practical exercise that focuses on the role of information management in integrated IO.”

III. Other Courses

Instructor Course (DEV-2)

“This course is designed to provide students with the theory and practice of concepts, methods, techniques, and technology of performance-oriented training.”

Medical Assistance Course (TAC-7)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to train noncommissioned officers and civilians to perform lifesaving measures and apply advanced field medical care in support of combat or counterdrug operations . . .”

Computer Literacy Course (DEV-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to teach the student the latest standard computer software programs. It consists of performance-oriented instruction and practice in the application of programs for database, spreadsheets, graphics, and word processing.”

Departmental Resource Management Course (CMS-3)
Corresponding SOA course: Resource Management Course

“This course gives students an understanding and appreciation of the concepts, principles, methods, techniques, and decision-making skills related to defense resources and logistics management . . .”

The four courses listed above all directly or indirectly provide combat support. Despite flowery rhetoric about human rights, cooperation and respect for democracy, WHISC is primarily a combat school. The courses above, whether in training skills, logistics, computers or resource management are all designed to supply an army unit with the necessary support to be able to engage in it’s primary purpose: combat.

Human Rights Instructor Course (CMS-5)
Corresponding SOA course: Human Rights Train the Trainer Qualification Course

"This course prepares students to qualify as human rights instructors at the battalion level. It provides a pragmatic approach to the integration of human rights into actual training environments . . .”

Although the Train the Trainer Course is listed in the SOA course catalog, SOA records show that no students actually attended the course in 1997, 1998 or 1999.

Peace Operations Course (CMS-6)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course familiarizes students with emerging U.S. doctrine for peace operations. Training focuses on the tactics, techniques and procedures of peace operations, including logistics support, chain-of-command structures, rules-of-engagement development, psychological operations, and intelligence capabilities and assets. Further instruction is conducted in preventive medicine and sanitation for peacekeepers as well as citizens. Training encompasses the role of civilian controls on military operations and the varying roles civilian non-governmental organizations have in supporting peace operations.”

Democratic Sustainment Course (CMS-2)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

This course introduces and teaches the theory and practice of military and civilian leadership in a constitutional nation-state, drawing on the shared traditions of the countries in the Western Hemisphere. It examines governmental operations, legal/military law, historical foundations of regional democracy, and religious influences. Instruction is presented in a variety of formats, including student papers and oral reports, guest lectures, liaison visits with city and county leaders, political groups, and public administrators.”

The U.S. Army web page for the SOA once stated, “Many critics [of the SOA] supported Marxism – Liberation Theology – in Latin America – which was defeated with the assistance of the U.S.Army.” SOA graduates have been found responsible for numerous human rights abuses against Christian clergy in Latin America. This includes the Jesuit massacre, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the rape and murder of four U.S. Churchwomen and suffering and death for countless others who practiced liberation theology.

An examination of religious influence by an institution that unabashedly takes credit for brutal repression of clergy and church workers has chilling implications.

International Operational Law (CMS-7)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course provides instruction on the legal responsibilities commonly faced by military and civilian leaders in both peacetime and times of conflict. Instruction in operational law includes the legal basis for the use of force, rules-of-engagement, development and training, and the Law of War in operations other war . . . ”

While listed in the course catalog, this course was never actually offered at the SOA.

Counterdrug Information Analyst Course (TAC-10)

“This course is designed to introduce students to the demanding intelligence analyst career when operating in a counterdrug environment. The course provides basic intelligence duties and responsibilities in tactical intelligence, intelligence preparation of the area of operations, security of operations, and analysis techniques. It also prepares students to operate in a joint intelligence center.”

Inspector General Course (LDR-5)

“This course is designed to educate and develop the qualities, behavior, knowledge, and skills required by Inspectors General (IG). Students are taught the IG policies and processes required to perform the full-service functions of inspections, assistance, investigations, and teaching and training.” the full-service functions of inspections, assistance, investigations.


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