San Salvador — American advisers in El Salvador feel themselves more threatened by the press than anyone else. At least that was the word from one of two unidentified American military instructors who met with newsmen at a military base here March 9 under arrangement made by the US embassy.
Anonymity was requested for the two men, an embassy official said, in order to reduce the chances of harrassment or more serious threats being directed against them during their six-month tour here.
For recreational purposes, the two men are allowed to leave the Salvadoran Air Force base at ilopango, just ouside San Salvador, where one serves as an instructor for Salvadoran Army helicopter pilots and the other as a maintenance officer instructing helicopter crews.
But they are not allowed to travel outside the capital city. The US has provided El Salvador with six helicopters designed to carry troops. The US Embassy official said reports stating that some of the helicopters would be used as combat gunships were erroneous.
The Two spanish looking Americans interviewed on the Air Force base said they were under instructions not to get involved in combat in El Salvador.
They made the point that if they were involved in more than training her, they would have been accompanied by much more in the way of American pilots and mechanics.
"What makes you nervous is the press," declared the maintenance instructor, a veteran of the vietnam war. "Somebody sticks a camera in your face . . . and it make something special out of you that you are not."
It was still not clear why some of the training that was being carried out by these two men could not be done farther from the combat -- for example, in the United States or in Panama, where extensive american military facilities are available.
But the pilot instructor said in answer to a question that it was cheaper to do the job in El Salvador itself.
The American maintenance instructor said that the main problem with the Salvadoran armed forces was not their capabilities but their need for better equipment and technical training.
He contended that the Salvadoran forces were superior to those with which he had worked in Vietnam. He said their organization, discipline, and motivation were all of a higher quality than those of the South Vietnamese.
He also said he thought the Salvadoran government forces could win the war here militarily.
But a more sober American military assessment of problems confronting the Salvadoran armed forces was given to some Salvadoran officers last year.
The 15-page confidential report lists as problems the Salvadoran military's "repressive image" among the Salvadoran people and its reputation for supporting right-wing interests in El Salvador.
The report also criticizes the way in which the Salvadoran military chain of command works and said corruption among a small percentage of the officer corps had, in the past at least, tarnished the reputations of all the officers.
The report said that it was possible to obtain promotions in the officer corps through personal connections rather than through merit.