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General Military Academy in Zaragoza, Spain

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The General Military Academy (in Spanish: Academia General Militar) is a higher training center of the Spanish Army, responsible for the initial training of officers of the Arms and Corps of the Army and the officers of the Civil Guard. It is currently located in Zaragoza, a city in northeastern Spain. The academy was founded in 1882 by King Alfonso XII and has undergone three periods of activity interrupted by political and military events. The academy is known for its rigorous and demanding curriculum, high standards of discipline and honor, and distinguished alumni who have played important roles in the history of Spain and the world.

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History of The General Military Academy, Spain

The General Military Academy has a long and rich history, marked by achievements and challenges. The academy was established in 1882, under the reign of Alfonso XII, as a way to unify the training of all the Army Corps, which until then had their separate centers. The academy’s first location was the Alcázar of Toledo, a medieval fortress used as a military headquarters for centuries.

The academy’s first director was General Méndez Vigo, a veteran of the Carlist Wars and the Cuban War. The academy aimed to provide a comprehensive education, combining military, academic, and moral aspects to form well-rounded and competent officers. The academy also adopted the motto “Todo por la Patria” (Everything for the Fatherland), which reflects its patriotic spirit and commitment.

The academy was closed in 1893 due to budget cuts and political disagreements. The Army Corps resumed their separate training centers, and the Alcázar of Toledo was converted into a museum. The academy remained inactive for more than three decades until it was reestablished in 1927 during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The dictator wanted to create a new generation of officers who would share a common vision and a knightly concept of the profession and who would be loyal to the monarchy and the regime.

He also wanted to appease the Africanists, a faction of the Army that had gained prestige and influence after the successful campaigns in Morocco. Primo de Rivera appointed Francisco Franco, a young and charismatic colonel who had distinguished himself in the African wars, as the academy’s director. Franco moved the academy to Zaragoza, a strategic and symbolic city, where he built a modern and spacious campus with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

Franco also designed a new curriculum based on his experience and ideals, emphasizing physical, tactical, and technical training, leadership, discipline, and honor. Franco was a strict and authoritarian director who imposed a rigid and hierarchical order in the academy and demanded absolute obedience and loyalty from the cadets. He also cultivated a personal and paternalistic relationship with them and became a role model and mentor for many of them.

Under Franco’s direction, the academy produced some of the most prominent and influential officers of the Spanish Army, who would later become his allies and supporters in the Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship.

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The academy was closed again in 1931 after the proclamation of the Second Republic and the military reforms enacted by the provisional government. The republican authorities considered the academy a bastion of conservatism and monarchism and a threat to the democratic and secular values of the new regime. They also wanted to reduce military spending and the size of the Army, as well as democratize and modernize the officer corps.

The closure of the academy was a major blow for Franco and his followers, who saw it as an attack on the very spirit and essence of the Army. They also resented the loss of their privileges and status and the imposition of new rules and regulations that they perceived as unfair and humiliating. The academy’s closure was one factor that contributed to the growing discontent and rebellion of the Army, which eventually led to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936.

The academy was reopened in 1940 after Franco’s victory in the Civil War and the establishment of his dictatorship. Franco wanted to restore the academy as a symbol of his power and legitimacy and as a tool to indoctrinate and control the Army. He also wanted to reward and honor his loyal comrades who had fought with him in the war. Franco appointed General José Enrique Varela, one of his closest collaborators and friends, as the academy director.

Varela maintained the academy’s location, curriculum, and motto. Still, he also introduced some changes and innovations, such as incorporating the Civil Guard officers, creating the Air Force and Tri-Service Corps, and adapting to the new technological and geopolitical scenarios.

Varela also fostered a spirit of camaraderie and fraternity among the cadets, encouraging them to participate in cultural and social activities, such as sports, music, theater, and charity. Varela was a respected and beloved director who balanced the rigors and demands of military training with the human and personal aspects of education. Under Varela’s direction, the academy continued to produce outstanding and distinguished officers who would serve in the Army and the Civil Guard and participate in various missions and operations in Spain and abroad.

The academy has remained active since then, with some modifications and updates according to the changing needs and circumstances of the Army and society. The academy has also witnessed and adapted to the transition from dictatorship to democracy and the integration of Spain into the European Union and NATO. The academy has also opened its doors to women admitted for the first time in 1988 and now represent about 15% of the cadets.

The academy has also expanded and improved its facilities and equipment and has incorporated new technologies and methods to enhance the quality and efficiency of the training. The academy has also established and maintained relations and collaborations with other military and academic institutions, both nationally and internationally, to exchange and share knowledge and experiences.

The academy has also preserved and celebrated its traditions and values, such as the oath of allegiance, the graduation ceremony, the patron saint’s day, and the alumni association. The academy has also honored and remembered its history and its heroes, such as the fallen in combat, the laureates, and the illustrious alumni, who have left their mark and legacy in the academy and the world.

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Admission Into The General Military Academy in Spain

Admission to the General Military Academy is highly competitive and selective, as it requires meeting a series of requirements and passing a series of tests. The admission process is open to Spanish citizens between 18 and 21 years old who have completed the high school diploma or equivalent and have a clean criminal record. The admission process consists of two phases: the first phase is a general test that evaluates the academic, physical, and psychological aptitudes of the candidates, and the second phase is a specific test that evaluates the knowledge and skills related to the chosen branch or specialty of the Army.

The admission process also includes a medical examination to verify the health and fitness of the candidates and a personal interview to assess the motivation and suitability of the candidates. The Ministry of Defense conducts the admission process through the Directorate General of Recruitment and Military Education, and the results are published on the official website and bulletin. The admission process is usually held once a year, between May and July, and the number of places available varies depending on the needs and plans of the Army.

The admission process is demanding and challenging; only the best and brightest candidates can enter the academy.

The admission process also requires a nomination from a public authority, such as a member of the parliament, a minister, a mayor, or a military commander. The nomination is a formal and symbolic endorsement that recognizes the candidates’ merits and potential and expresses the nominator’s support and confidence.

The nomination is not a guarantee of admission, a privilege, or a favor, but rather a responsibility and a commitment that implies a mutual obligation and respect between the nominator and the nominee. The nomination is also a tradition and an honor that dates back to the academy’s origins, reflecting the institution’s prestige and reputation. The nomination is also a way to ensure the academy’s diversity and representation, as it allows the participation and inclusion of candidates from different regions, backgrounds, and sectors of society.

The admission process is not the only way to enter the academy, as there are other alternatives and options for those with previous military or academic experience. For instance, the academy admits several non-commissioned officers who have completed at least three years of service in the Army and have passed a specific test and a course of adaptation.

The academy also admits several university graduates who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a relevant field and have passed a specific test and a course of adaptation. The academy also admits several foreign cadets who belong to the armed forces of friendly and allied countries and have been selected and sponsored by their respective governments. The academy also admits some exchange students from other military or academic institutions, both nationally and internationally, who have been approved and authorized by the academy.

Admission to the academy is a great achievement and opportunity, as it allows the cadets to pursue a rewarding and honorable career in the Army and the Civil Guard. The cadets who enter the academy are expected to demonstrate high dedication, discipline, and excellence in the academic and military fields.

Academic Programs

The General Military Academy offers a bachelor’s degree in Military Sciences and Engineering, accredited by the Ministry of Education and the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation. The degree is divided into two cycles: the first cycle lasts three years and covers the common core subjects for all the branches and specialties of the Army and the Civil Guard, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, law, history, geography, psychology, sociology, ethics, and military doctrine.

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The second cycle lasts two years and covers the specific subjects for each branch and specialty, such as infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineering, signals, intelligence, logistics, health, and civil guard. The degree also includes practical training, such as physical education, weapons handling, tactics, leadership, survival, and field exercises. The degree also allows the cadets to participate in exchange programs and internships with other military and academic institutions, nationally and internationally, through the Military Erasmus and Erasmus+ initiatives.

The General Military Academy also offers a master’s degree in Military Sciences and Engineering aimed at officers who want to pursue further studies and research in their fields of expertise. The master’s degree lasts one year and comprises 60 ECTS credits, distributed in modules, seminars, and a final project. The master’s degree is accredited by the Ministry of Education and the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation and is recognized by the European Higher Education Area. The master’s degree also allows the officers to access the doctoral programs offered by the University of Zaragoza and other universities.

The General Military Academy also offers several courses and programs for the officers’ continuing education and professional development, such as languages, information technology, management, security, and defense. The academy also organizes and hosts various conferences, workshops, and seminars on topics of interest and relevance for the military and society, such as the Cervantes Chair, the Magazine “Armas y Cuerpos,” and the Virtual Visit3.

Campus Life at The General Military Academy

The campus life at the General Military Academy is a unique and enriching experience that combines the academic and the military aspects of the education and fosters a sense of community and belonging among the cadets and the staff. The campus life is also governed by the principles and values of the Cadet Code of Ethics, such as loyalty, honor, duty, courage, and service.

The academy’s campus is in Zaragoza, a city with a rich historical and cultural heritage and a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. The campus covers an area of about 300,000 square meters. It has modern and comfortable facilities and equipment, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries, auditoriums, offices, dormitories, dining halls, sports fields, gyms, swimming pools, shooting ranges, and parade grounds. The campus also has a museum that displays the history and traditions of the academy and the Army and a chapel that offers spiritual and religious assistance to the cadets and the staff.


The General Military Academy is a remarkable and admirable military institution with a long and rich history, a high and prestigious ranking, a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum, a vibrant and enriching campus life, a strong and competitive athletics program, and a distinguished and illustrious alumni network. The academy is also a source of pride and honor, responsibility and expectation, and inspiration and aspiration for the cadets, staff, alumni, and society. The academy is also a symbol, guaranteeing excellence and prestige, loyalty and courage, and service and sacrifice for the Army, the Civil Guard, and the nation.

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