Never before in the history of democracy has a Chief of the Defense Staff It had been as mediatic as Miguel Ángel Villarroya has been during the last year. In his blue aviator uniform, Major General, omnipresent on screens across the country Day after day during the harshest moments of confinement in March and April, he made the Spaniards finally know what the acronym JEMAD meant.
Villarroya (Tarragona, 1963) accompanied every day by Fernando Simón and the heads of the National Police and the Civil Guard, tried to convert ordinary citizens from the lectern of Moncloa into a kind of ‘soldiers against the virus’.
“In this irregular and rare war that we have to live or fight, we are all soldiers”; “Today is Friday on the calendar, but in these times of war or crisis, every day is Monday”; «They are going to allow me to take advantage of my 40 years of service in this context of an unarmed warfare to offer you some advice based on military values: discipline and a spirit of sacrifice. This is going to come in handy these days »are some of his phrases.
The idea of the Government was that the speeches of Villarroya, with the excuse of reeling off the benefits of the ‘Balmis operation’ of the military in support of the fight against the virus, served to keep ‘morale high’ in the country. But the truth is that his barracks sermons were not always well understood in such complicated circumstances and on April 25 of last year the Presidency of the Government finally decided to dispense with the media services of the JEMAD and his two uniformed companions in the press conferences of Moncloa: the Deputy Director of Operations (DAO) of the National Police, José Ángel González, and the General of the General Staff of the Civil Guard, José Manuel Santiago. Both González, for inadvertently revealing that the police had not been able to buy masks for weeks, and Santiago, for that comment that the Government had ordered to pursue information that was harmful to them, ended badly after passing through the press conferences. However, the image of Villarroya, despite his harangues, came out reinforced from that adventure of media overexposure until now.
After disappearing from televisions, the general became little less than a myth in the barracks, where almost for the first time the troops knew how to recognize the face of the most powerful man in the armies after the King and the minister. His good treatment and his hitherto unpolluted service record earned him the trust of Margarita Robles, despite the fact that Villarroya was appointed in 2017 as a confidant of Minister Dolores de Cospedal in the direction of the Defense technical cabinet. Robles herself had no problem appointing him JEMAD in January 2020 despite its origin. Even on Friday, after learning about the vaccination plan in the General Staff, he valued its “rigor” and good work at this time.
Genius and figure, the general accumulates a long career since he joined his first assignment in 1981. In the eighties he was promoted to captain and commander in the ALA 31 of Zaragoza; in 1996 he was assigned to the Air Operational Command; later he went as lieutenant colonel to the 45th Torrejón Air Force Group, which he directed in 2005; He went from colonel to general in 2011 and, after leading the Canary Islands Air Command, in 2017 he entered the direction of the Defense technical cabinet.