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Spain: Spanish Legion
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Military Commands and Organization > Army > Spanish Legion

SPANISH LEGION


The Spanish Legion, founded in Morocco in 1920, has always been under the direct command of the chief of the army staff. It has had a reputation as the toughest combat unit in the service. Although modeled after the French Foreign Legion, it never acquired the international flavor of its French counterpart. Reduced in size to 8,500 in 1987, as a result of successive reorganizations, the legion was scheduled to undergo further cuts to an overall strength of 6,500. It had a higher number of career soldiers than other units, but it was manned mostly by conscripts who had volunteered for the legion. Recruitment of non-Spanish personnel, who had never exceeded 10 percent of the group's manpower, ended in 1986. Foreign legionnaires already in the service were not affected.

As of 1987, the Spanish Legion was grouped into four tercios (sing., tercio), a unit intermediate between a regiment and a brigade, each commanded by a colonel. The first and the second tercios constituted the core of the military garrisons at Melilla and Ceuta. Each had been reduced by a motorized battalion, leaving it with a single motorized battalion, a mechanized battalion, an antitank company, and a headquarters company. They were equipped with BMR armored personnel carriers. The third tercio, stationed in the Canary Islands, consisted of two motorized battalions and a headquarters company. The fourth tercio was being converted from a support role to a combat unit at the legion headquarters in Ronda near Malaga.

In 1987 the Ministry of Defense was planning the creation of a rapid deployment force composed entirely of volunteers. This force, which would include the Spanish Legion, the paratroop brigade, the airborne brigade, and Marine units, would be available for use in trouble spots on twelve hours' notice. Lack of adequate air and naval transport would, however, be a limiting factor.

Data as of December 1988




Last Updated: December 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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