BUENOS AIRES -- When Guillermo graduated from Argentina's military college in the early 1970s, the armed forces were at war with leftist guerrillas inside the country. He was sent to fight in the mountains of Tucuman and, later, in the city streets of Cordoba. By the decade's close, nearly all subversive activity had been crushed.
Then another war broke out, this one in the Falkland Islands, and Guillermo was dispatched to the South Atlantic to face the British, who proved victorious. As his superiors fell from power the next year, Guillermo watched civilians take control of the government and courts move to prosecute many of his colleagues for crimes committed during the antiguerrilla campaign.
Now an Army captain, Guillermo in April joined scores of middle-ranking officers who seized the infantry school at the Campo de Mayo base here, protesting the trials and provoking a national crisis. His experiences and views represent his generation in Argentina's armed forces, an embittered generation vying to regain some of the political influence its commanders lost. He agreed to be interviewed on condition that he not be fully identified.
Guillermo is the son of a retired officer, and his wife is the daughter and granddaughter of military men. He is therefore a product of a close-knit community that has felt itself divorced from civilian society since democracy's return in 1983.
While many Argentines blame the military for placing itself on the margins of national life, officers say the left-center government of President Raul Alfonsin pushed them to withdraw by launching the trials and doing little to curb the antimilitary bent of the media, particularly state-controlled television stations.
"It was the government that forced the military's isolation," Guillermo's father said in a separate interview. "Until recently, it ignored most military problems and consciously sought to suppress the armed forces."
Now the military has returned as a pressure group, winning a law this month that cancels trials for all but the senior officers who issued the orders in Argentina's "dirty war" against leftists. Yet the armed forces remain a caste apart, feeling misunderstood by a society that, according to opinion surveys, continues to hold them in low esteem.
"We are probably more intense than the military in other nations," Guillermo explained. "We seem to be more ideological, more doctrinaire."
But the military also is being held responsible for the disappearance of at least 9,000 people during the repression. Some human rights activists put the number as high as 30,000. The bodies of most victims never have been found.
In 1985, a federal court convicted five former junta members of responsibility for the kidnapings, torture and killings their troops committed, calling the "dirty war" a criminal campaign. The military rejects this judgment.
"We don't accept that we used aberrant methods," said Guillermo. The prevailing view in the military is to see the antiguerrilla war as a great victory that rid Argentina of left-wing terrorism.
Guillermo called the new law canceling most trials "a step forward but not a final one." He is counting on the Army's new commanders to press the government for a formal amnesty that would erase criminal charges against all officers involved in the dirty war and officially recognize the war's legitimacy.
"They call this a dirty war; the fact is, I don't know a clean one," the captain said. "We were facing an enemy that wanted to kill us and that was using unconventional methods to terrorize society. It wasn't a war that followed norms."
It also was not a war, he added, that civilians can claim they knew nothing about. "There was a tacit acceptance by the whole nation," he said, asserting that all of society should thus bear the cost.
Guillermo is confident that the new Army chief of staff, Gen. Jose Caridi, will argue the military's cause more forcefully than his predecessor, whose removal was one of the aims of the Easter rebellions.
The officer corps, Guillermo explained, is a relatively small group in which everyone knows everyone else, and the infantry school at Campo de Mayo is a central meeting place. So it was natural, he said, that he and the other rebels convened there to exchange information and views when the first uprising broke out April 16 in Cordoba.
Contributing to Guillermo's resentment of the government's military policy are budget cuts and an erosion in military pay since Alfonsin took power. He spoke of the difficulties of making ends meet on a captain's salary -- the equivalent of about $375 a month. A number of officers have second jobs, he said.
Increased military spending is high on the list of demands the Army is now pressing. "The Easter Week action has served to lift the head of the Army," said Guillermo, adding, in an effort to appear less menacing: "We'll push for what's reasonable."