The Legion played a major role in the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War.In post-Franco Spain, the modern Legion has undertaken tours of duty in the Yugoslav Wars, Afghanistan, Iraq and Operation Libre Hidalgo UNIFIL The Spanish Legion was formed by royal decree of King Alfonso XIII on 28 January 1920, with the Minister of War José Villalba Riquelme stating, "With the designation of Foreigners Regiment there will be created an armed military unit, whose recruits, uniform and regulations by which they should be governed will be set by the minister of war." In the 1920s the Spanish Legion's five battalions were filled primarily by native Spaniards (since foreigners were not easy to recruit) with most of its foreign members coming from the Republic of Cuba.Its purpose was to provide a corps of professional troops to fight in Spain's colonial campaigns in North Africa, in place of conscript units that were proving ineffective.The unit, which was established in January 1920 as the Spanish equivalent of the French Foreign Legion, was initially known as the Tercio de Extranjeros ("Tercio of foreigners"), the name under which it began fighting in the Rif War of 1920-6.Although it recruited some foreigners mostly from Spanish-speaking nations, it recruited predominantly from Spaniards.
Historically there had been a "Spanish Foreign Legion" which preceded the modern Legion's formation in 1920.
On 28 June 1835, the French government had decided to hand over to the Spanish government the French Foreign Legion in support of Queen Isabella's claim to the Spanish throne during the First Carlist War.
), informally known as the Tercio or the Tercios, is a unit of the Spanish Army and Spain's Rapid Reaction Force.
It was raised in the 1920s to serve as part of Spain's Army of Africa.
As a result, and since it existed to serve in Spanish Morocco, it was soon renamed Tercio de Marruecos ("Tercio of Morocco").By the end of the Rif War it had expanded and again changed its name, to the "Spanish Legion", with several "tercios" as sub-units.