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Resolved in Western democracies, a clash is perpetuated in the Brazilian exercise: is the mission rigid discipline or party politicization? This is an agenda that finds its point of contraction at the beginning of the last century. At that time, the heads of the barracks did not devote greater attention to disciplines linked to war, a kind of bachelor’s degree in uniform prevailed.

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They arrived at the war the day it ended.

The lack of structure of the Brazilian army was exposed during the First World War. Although with discreet participation, the Brazilian troops were able to verify the lag in relation to the war power of the countries involved in the conflict. In addition to sending a medical mission, Brazilian collaboration was limited to the deployment of a naval mission, made up of eight boats, which were to be incorporated into the British fleet in the Strait of Gibraltar, in southern Spain. There was no time for this incorporation. A day after arriving at their destination, Brazilian soldiers received, with a mixture of disappointment and relief, the information that the war was over.

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The Battle of Toninhas that changed the course of the army.

Shortly before, still at sea, the fleet spotted strange movement just below the surface. The Brazilian sailors, without thinking twice, opened fire towards the “enemy”. Ammo lost. It was just a school of porpoises, a species of small dolphins. The innocent pets had been mistaken for a dangerous German submarine. Even before the War and the War of Porpoises, the armed forces already recognized the lack of preparation. Everything began to change with the Army Reorganization law and more effectively with the sending of more than thirty instructors to training courses in Germany.

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The “Young Turks”.

After two years of internship, the boys returned full of new ideas, familiar with the tactics and modern equipment developed by the Kaiser’s war industry. Despite the resistance and vices of the old guard of bachelors, these young instructors were responsible for the complete overhaul of the barracks. New disciplines, new regulations, translated military manuals and copied to the letter the rigidity of the German discipline. The army would be highly disciplined and not partisan. These instructors were nicknamed “Young Turks”, in analogy to the army of Mustafa Kermal, a Turkish political leader who was in evidence for having built a modern army in the closed Muslim system. The pejorative expression ended up becoming fashionable among the group’s own members. They wanted to form “tough soldiers” who would keep a distance between the army and politics.

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The Military School of Realengo and the invasion of neighboring chicken coops.

Inspired by the novelties introduced by the “young Turks”, the routine at the Escola Militar do Realengo, in Rio de Janeiro, was spartan. Students jump out of bed at four-thirty, and at five-thirty, they hear the ranch ring, calling for breakfast. Half an hour later, they were in formation. They carried eighty-kilogram bags on their backs, climbed ropes with their bare hands, threw grenades from a distance, ran miles over rough terrain…. If there was too much discipline, there was no food. The institution’s budget was short. It was not for nothing that many of them, after the curfew, used to jump over the walls of the school and invade the neighborhood chicken coops. They were looking for the complement of the frugal dinner.

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The “Tugurium of Mars”.

A politicized group, almost a brotherhood, in which Eduardo Gomez, Juarez Távora and Siqueira Campos pontificated had rented a small house, where they fled whenever the night watchmen let their guard down. Illuminated by the clandestine energy drawn from the Light’s poles, the three met to study and discuss Brazilian and international political issues, contrary to the doctrine of the “young Turks”. There they organized a library and named the hideout “Tugurium of Mars”, in honor of the Roman god of war. Eventually two students participated in these clandestine meetings: Castelo Branco and the student Luís Carlos Prestes.

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