National Army of Colombia

Colombian National Army
Ejército Nacional de Colombia
Escudo Ejercito Nacional de Colombia.svg
Colombian Army Emblem
Active August 19, 1819 - Present
Country Colombia
Role Foreign and Domestic Defense
Size 235,538 (2009)[1]
Garrison/HQ Colombian Ministry of Defense
Colors Red with Army Crest
March "Himno del Ejército"
Anniversaries August 7
Engagements Independence War against Spain, Thousand Days War (Civil war), War Against Peru, Korean War, Colombian Armed Conflict
Gen. Oscar González
Simon Bolivar,
Francisco de Paula Santander,
Gustavo Rojas Pinilla,
Harold Bedoya Pizarro,
Manuel José Bonett
Rafael Reyes Prieto

The National Army of Colombia (Spanish: Ejército Nacional de Colombia) is the land military force of the government of Colombia and the largest service of the Colombian Armed Forces. It has the responsibility for land-based military operations along with the Infanteria de Marina (Naval Infantry) to protect the Colombian state against domestic or foreign threats.

The modern Colombian Army has its roots in the Ejército de los Comuneros or Army of the Commoners which was formed on August 7, 1819, before the establishment of the present day Colombia to meet the demands of the Revolutionary War against the Spanish Empire.

That same day, the Congress of Angostura created the Greater Colombian Army after the triumph over the Spanish, to replace the disbanded Commoners Army. However, the Colombian Army considers itself to be an evolution of the Commoners Army, and thus dates its inception from its origins.



The Colombian Army trace its history back to the 1770s and 1780s, when the comuneros (Commoners) (mostly descendants of Spanish and Amerindians) decided to separate from the Spanish Empire to create their own country and initiated a revolutionary war. The Greater Colombian Army is consolidated on August 7, 1819 by defeating the Spaniards at Boyacá in the Battle of Boyacá under the command of Simon Bolivar. Since then the Colombian Army has been the biggest organization in Colombia.

The military reform carried out by General Rafael Reyes Prieto in the year 1907 marked the professionalization of the Colombian Armed Forces.

Recent History

The Colombian National Army Flag.
Colombian National Army soldier searching for landmines.

The Colombian Army is present at war with leftist rebels of the FARC, ELN and EPL, as well as other minor groups. Throughout the war, military personnel have usually maintained a level of professionalism.

Members of the military have been accused or condemned for collaborating with the activities of right wing paramilitaries, such as the AUC and others. The BBC and other sources have reported on cases of corruption in the military, as well as other scandals.

The United States government approved the Plan Colombia initiative. Part of the resources provided by this initiative would be directed to the support of the Colombian Army by strengthening its combat and logistics capabilities.

The Colombian Army is led by the President of Colombia (a civilian) and directed as well by a (four suns) General.

The training of Colombian soldiers is world recognized due to its demanding features. The promotion courses (courses that the candidate has to take in order to be promoted to a higher rank) are usually tough and physically demanding.

A "Lancero" training course in counterinsurgency warfare is held in Tolemaida, 150 miles (240 km) from Bogotá, where temperatures range between 85 and 100 degrees F. (29.5-38 degrees C.) throughout the year. The course, which has been called the toughest in the world, is run by the Colombian army with U.S. military instructors also playing a role. According to Paris Match (no. 2964, March 9–15, 2006) the course lasts 73 days and trains Bolivian, Ecuadorean, and Panamanian troops as well as Colombian soldiers; some French and American soldiers are also trained there.[1] The course, founded in 1955, derives from the Ranger program of the US Army. Reportedly, severe techniques and live ammunition are used. Because of its exceptional nature, the course has gained international prestige.

Military overseas operations

The Colombian National Army deploys soldiers in the Sinai since the United Nations Emergency Force was assembled in 1956 [2]. It has also joined forces many times with different armies around the world under the UN mandate.

Colombia is also planning to send around 100 troops to support Spain in the ISAF in Afghanistan.(The troops would also be under Spain's command.)


Structure of the Colombian National Army

Major units


Colombian Army Divisions are static Regional Commands

Army soldiers in training exercises.
  • Primera division ejercito de Colombia logo.png 1st Division (Santa Marta) - Its jurisdiction covers the Northern Region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Cesar, La Guajira, Magdalena, Sucre, Bolívar and Atlántico. 2nd Mechanized and 10th Armored brigades.
  • Segunda Division Coat.svg 2nd Division (Bucaramanga) - Its jurisdiction covers the north eastern Colombia in which there are the departments of Norte de Santander, Santander and Arauca. 5th Infantry, 30th Infantry and 23rd Mobile brigades.
  • Tercera Division Coat.svg 3rd Division (Cali) - Its jurisdiction covers the South West of Colombia in which there are the departamntos of Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Caldas, Quindio, part of Santander and the southern part of the Chocó. 3rd, 8th, 23rd and 29th Infantry brigades.
  • Cuarta Division Coat.svg 4th Division (Villavicencio) - Its jurisdiction covers the eastern region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Meta, Guaviare, and part of Vaupés. 7th Infantry, 22nd Infantry and 31st Jungle Infantry brigades.
  • 5th Division (Bogota) - Its jurisdiction covers the Central Region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Cundinamarca, Boyaca, Huila and Tolima. 1st Infantry, 6th Infantry, 8th Mobile, 9th Infantry and 13th Infantry brigades.
  • Sexta Division Coat.svg6th Division (Florencia) - Its jurisdiction covers the southern region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Amazonas, Caquetá, Putumayo and southern Vaupés. 12th Infantry, 13th Mobile, 26th Jungle and 27th Jungle brigades.
  • 7th Division (Medellin) - Its jurisdiction covers the western region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Cordoba, Antioquia, and part of the Chocó. 4th, 11th, 14th, 15th and 17th Infantry and 11th Mobile Brigades
  • 8th Division (Yopal) - Its jurisdiction covers the northeastern region of Colombia in which there are the departments of Casanare, Arauca, Vichada, Guainía, and the municipalities of Boyaca of Cubará, Pisba, Paya, Labranzagrande and Pajarito. 16th, 18th, 28th, and the 5th Mobile Brigade.

Other Units

Combat Arms of the Colombian Army
  • Mobile Medical Command with 3 Battalions
  • Military and Institutes Brigade
  • 19th Cadet Brigade with 3 battalions
  • Army Aviation with 135 helicopters and aircraft.
  • Army Commando Battalion

Combat Arms

  • Infantería (Infantry)
  • Caballería (Cavalry)
  • Artillería (Artillery)
  • Ingenieros (Engineers)
  • Inteligencía (Intelligence)
  • Comunicaciones (Communications)
  • Cuerpo Logístico y Administrativo (Logistics and Administrative Corps)
  • Aviación (Army Aviation)

Special Units

The Colombian Army has created new programs in order to fight terrorist guerrillas that during the last 40 years have fought a war to overthrow the Colombian government. They are highly trained, specially selected Colombian Army soldiers. They do special recon operations to find and expel Colombian terrorists hideouts.

Rapid Deployment Force

  • The Rapid Deployment Force or Fuerza de Despliegue Rápido abr. FUDRA, was created as a modern quick reaction force to deploy to different regions and to all types of weather. Currently, its function is to solely carry out offensive operations against insurgents or outlaws.

Anti-Narcotics Brigade

  • Anti-Narcotics Brigade (Brigada Anti-Narcoticos). This unit was specifically activated for operations against the trafficking of narcotics. It was created on December 8, 2000 and has its main headquarters in the Guaviare Department.

Army Aviation Brigade

  • The Army Aviation Brigade or Unidad de Aviación del Ejército, is an aviation branch that works autonomously from the Colombian Air Force. It's part of the Colombian Army Cavalry Corps and its main mission is to support the army's ground operations. The unit has recently focused in the security of the Colombian border and Colombia's sovereignty.
    This Unit was created on September 7 of 1916 and it is managed by the Colombian Cavalry.

AFEUR unit

The Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas (Urban Counter-Terrorism Special Forces Group, AFEUR) is an elite unit of the Colombian Army, whose primary mission is to perform counter-terrorist operations and hostage rescues based on stealth, surprise and team work.

VIP protection is another task of the unit. For example, they protect the Colombian President when he travels, and provided protection for President Bill Clinton's (Army group) and President George W. Bush's visits to Cartagena, in 2000 and 2004 respectively. They also provided the second security ring to Bush's visit to Bogotá in 2007.

This unit answers directly to the Commando General de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Joint Staff), and they are allowed to use any military air transportation to guarantee mobility, and to use any weapon or additional equipment as required to accomplish their missions.

AFEUR won the "Fuerzas Comando 2005" (Commando Forces 2005) contest, that took place in Chile in June 2005 lasting two weeks.

This yearly contest sponsored by the US South Command and the US Special Operations Command with similar teams from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, U.S., Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Peru and Uruguay.

AFEUR also won the 2006 and 2007 versions of this contest.

Special Forces Brigade

  • Colombian National Army Special Forces Brigade

GAULA groups

Members of the GAULA, prepare for a demonstration during a ceremony in Sibate, Colombia on Dec. 6, 2007.

GAULA is an acronym for Grupos de Acción Unificada por la Libertad Personal, i.e. Unified Action Groups for Personal Liberty, specialising in solving hostage-taking. These are elite units established in 1996 exclusively dedicated to the combating of kidnapping and extortion. They are composed of highly qualified personnel who conduct hostage rescues and dismantling of criminal gangs at the root of crimes which compromise the personal freedom of Colombians. There is an inter-institutional element in GAULA guaranteeing self-checking procedures, trained by staff of the Administrative Security Department, the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of the Criminal Investigation Bureau ( Fiscalía) and military forces. Currently, the country has 16 GAULA of the Colombian National Army and 2 of the Navy.

Schools and Courses


Army Equipment


Colombian Army Vehicle Inventory
Vehicle/System Firm Number in Service Status Origin
Wheeled Armoured Vehicles
EE-9 Cascavel 174 In Service  Brazil
Infantry Transport Vehicles
Humvee +400 In Service  United States
M-1117 39 Entry into service: 2010  United States
M-113 120 In Service  United States
EE-11 Urutu 100 In Service  Brazil
RG-31 Nyala 4 In Service  South Africa
M8 Greyhound 8 In Service  United States
AIL Abir In Service  Israel
Transport Vehicles
M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck In Service  United States
M3 Half-track In Service  United States
AIL Abir In Service  Israel
Willys MB In Service  United States
Kaiser Jeep M715 In Service  United States


Assault Rifles

Machine Guns


Anti Armour

Air defense systems and systems and anti-aircraft artillery

  • Mistral (missile)
  • Baterías AA Eagle Eye
  • Sistemas Oerlikon
  • bofors M1
  • M-55 AAA
  • M-8/M-55


Aircraft Origin Type Version(s) In service[3] Notes
Gulfstream Turbo Commander  United States Transport Commander 1000 1
Beechcraft King Air  United States Transport Model 90 1
UH-1 Iroquois  United States Utility helicopter UH-1H 31
UH-1N Twin Huey  United States Transport helicopter 27 Bell Huey II
Convair 580  United States Airliner 1
Kaman K-MAX  United States Transport helicopter 5
Mil Mi-17  Russia Transport helicopter 23[4]
Cessna 208 Caravan  United States Utility
Piper PA-31 Navajo  United States Utility 2
Aero Commander 500  United States Utility Rockwell 685 Commander 2
CASA C-212 Aviocar  Spain Transport 5
Piper PA-34 Seneca  United States Utility 5
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk  United States Transport/ Combat helicopter UH-60L 50 Including the 15 from Plan Colombia


Since 2006 the National Army of Colombia changed its uniform type forest (woodland) by a modern design featuring a new digital camouflage pattern is called a pixel.

There are 2 types of camouflage, camouflage jungle that is used by most of the army and the desert camouflage that is used by troops in the department of La Guajira and the Colombia Battalion in the Sinai peninsula in the International Watching Forces.

The changes provide greater comfort to the troops, while the material used allows even application of repellents to prevent in some cases avoid mosquito bites and a high percentage of the concentration of bacteria and odors.

The design of camouflage texture, color and design is unique to the Colombian army and national manufacturing is only Colombia's military forces can use it.


Ranks & Insignias

The tables below display the rank structures and rank insignias for the Colombian Army personnel. [5][6]

Ranks and Insignias - Colombian National Army


NATO code [n 1] OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
 Colombia No equivalent Insignia of general of colombian army.svg Teniente general.svg Rank insignia of mayor general of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of brigadier general of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of coronel of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of teniente coronel of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of mayor of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of capital of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of teniente of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of subteniente of the Colombian Army.svg
(Spanish) - General Teniente General Mayor General Brigadier General Coronel Teniente Coronel Mayor Capitán Teniente Subteniente
(English) - General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Soldiers

NATO code [n 1] OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
 Colombia Rank insignia of sargento mayor de comando conjunto of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of sargento mayor de comando of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of sargento mayor of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of sargento primero of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of sargento viceprimero of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of sargento segundo of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of cabo primero of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of cabo segundo of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of cabo tercero of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of dragoneante of the Colombian Army.svg Rank insignia of soldado profesional of the Colombian Army.svg No Insignia
(Spanish) Sargento Mayor de Comando Conjunto Sargento Mayor de Comando Sargento Mayor Sargento Primero Sargento Vice Primero Sargento Segundo Cabo Primero Cabo Segundo Cabo Tercero Dragoneante Soldado Profesional Soldado
(English) Joint Command Sergeant Major Command Sergeant Major Sergeant Major First Sergeant Sergeant First Class Second Sergeant First Corporal Second Corporal Third Corporal Private First Class Private (Professional) Private Basic

See also


  1. ^ a b Colombia is not a member of NATO, so there is not an official equivalence between the Colombian military ranks and those defined by NATO. The displayed parallel is approximate and for illustration purposes only.


External links

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