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We may know them as the men and women in green uniforms who police areas of Spain, fighting crime, tackling criminals, carrying out rescue missions up mountains or out at sea, or issuing fines when we break traffic laws, but what is not really known about the Guardia Civil is their international work and their presence they have around the globe.

Unlike the police in the UK, for example, the Guardia Civil of Spain are a militarised body. As such, they travel around the world to serve in the same way as any other unit of the army, navy or air force. Therefore, in recognition of Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated on the 6th of June, we thought we would offer you an insight into some of their activities abroad.

Francisco Morales, a serving traffic officer based in Torrevieja, along with some of his colleagues who first set up the N332 project for road safety, were posted in Lebanon for a six month tour.

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They were based in the international Spanish base named after historically famed author, “Miguel de Cervantes”, on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

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Serving as Military Police, they would carry out many of the same activities as other service personnel, but in addition they would also carry out the duties of traffic police officers, investigating and reporting on incidents to report back to the United Nations.

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Their primary role was to enforce the UN traffic law in the area, which was only applied to the UN vehicles and drivers who were involved in the action there. Many of these traffic related activities were just like during civilian life, carrying out breathalyzer tests, speed tests and even check points to ensure that soldiers do not carry illegal items in the UN vehicles.

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As well as law enforcement, the teams also carry out protection duties, including escorting convoys when they visit towns, so a vast knowledge of the local area is crucial to ensure that alternatives routes can be set up in the event of an incident or road closure.

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They carry out security details to escort high profile personnel visiting the area, including escorts to public events, such as visiting local towns and meetings between dignitaries.

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In fact, their roles are much the same as when they are on duty in civilian areas, with the added danger of conflict zones and military life adding to their tasks.

In all international missions where Spanish troops have a presence, there is always a group of Guardia Civil officers who change their green uniform to military, and live as soldiers during the 6 months of each posting.

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It wasn´t all about the work however, there were many activities that the team performed to assist the local communities. For example, in their free time, some of the Guardia Civil officers took it upon themselves to run Spanish classes for the local population. Lots of the locals were keen to learn or improve their languages so that they were able to sell their goods to the foreign troops who were based in the area.

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Beneath the surface of those green uniforms are a group of men and women who dedicate their lives to serve others. Tragically, many pay the ultimate price for their loyalty, which is why any death in service is treated with the utmost respect. With courage and honour they serve, and whilst we may not always appreciate their daily activities, we can at least see a little more about what goes on behind the scenes and why every single person who serves also deserves that same respect, as when we are facing the worst of times, situations or incidents, we can always guarantee that they are the ones who come running to our aid.

There are a number of videos available that showcase the global activities of the Guardia Civil.

International Missions of the Guardia Civil:

Guardia Civil in Afghanistan:

In terms of the global commitment, the General Director of the Guardia Civil summed up the effort that the troops contribute to in a speech that closed the IV European Union Police Services Training conference.

All our police services share a common purpose, to ensure security for our fellow citizens. But security cannot be achieved if our efforts are confined to our borders. In the global world in which we live, where borders fade away, the distance is shortened and information is known around the world within seconds, things happening in other countries, no matter how far away, affect our security.

Therefore, we have to assume two responsibilities, to ensure security and to help our allies. We cannot escape from this, because if we do, we would not be complying with our mission.

Present-day conflicts are very complex and have direct and indirect effects on our society and on that of our friendly and allied countries. The number of actors is high and the network of relations is extremely complicated.

A comprehensive approach needs to be made of the existing and potential threats in order to properly curtail them. Otherwise, failure will be guaranteed, instability will remain and the suffering of people will be perpetuated.

However, we cannot forget that ensuring peace to stabilize a region is more important than a military victory. That is why states must have the capabilities needed to implement the full range of civilian crisis management to ensure success. And here is where Police Services have a fundamental role.

As the police contingents that take part are normally multinational, to ensure better efficiency, the procedures must be harmonized and there must be better cohesion and interoperability between the police services that, at some point, could be deployed to missions under the auspices of United Nations, the European Union, the African Union or any other international security and defence organisation. That was the purpose of this course.

Many of you here today and the countries you represent have already taken part in this type of missions and have experience in this field, so the interchange of experience has helped us all to further enrich our knowledge and that of the institutions we belong to.

As an example of the firm commitment of the Guardia Civil to contribute to international security, I wish to emphasize our participation in the EUCAP SAHEL Niger mission to enhance the capabilities to fight terrorism and organised crime in Sahel, under the command of an officer of the Guardia Civil, Brigadier General Francisco Espinosa Navas.

The course has been carried out in these premises of de Rural Action Unit (UAR), a counterterrorism and special training unit with a long standing history that has helped to successfully fight the blemish of terrorism and has played an excellent role in international missions in Afghanistan, Haiti and Lebanon.


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