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Marine Corps adds new embassy security reinforcement teams

Apr. 26, 2013 - 04:09PM   |  
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with a Marine Security Guard at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on March 5. New squad-level teams will be able to respond directly to calls from the ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer of an embassy in trouble.
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with a Marine Security Guard at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on March 5. New squad-level teams will be able to respond directly to calls from the ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer of an embassy in trouble. (State Department)
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The Marine Corps will soon be able to dispatch squad-level teams for immediate embassy security reinforcement as the service responds to calls to better protect diplomatic facilities in the wake of September’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The Security Augmentation Unit will be based in Quantico, Va., as part of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, according to a Marine Corps official at the Pentagon. It will be composed of nine or 10 squad-level teams, totaling between 120 and 130 Marines, he said.

The new teams will respond directly to calls from the ambassador, chief of mission or regional security officer at the embassy in trouble, he said, so those on the scene are communicating directly with the augmentation unit. If there is credible intelligence of a threat to an embassy, the augmentation unit can send a team to reinforce that embassy immediately.

“The point is to have these security guards, who are the experts at protecting an embassy, have a direct operational chain to reinforce,” he said. “The beauty of this operational chain is that it’s a lot more simple.”

“It doesn’t have to go from the embassy to the State Department over to the [Defense Department] down to the combatant commander in the region.”

Those steps serve a purpose, but can slow the type of crisis-response security the Corps is looking to provide with these teams, he said. It’s a direct result of Congress, the president, and officials at the State and Defense departments examining ways to prevent situations like the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The new unit comes amid questions about how the Corps will meet Congress’ call to boost the number of Marine Security Guards it has at diplomatic posts around the world by as many as 1,000 over the next three years. Gen. John Paxton, the assistant commandant, told lawmakers on April 18 that the fiscal 2014 budget request includes funds for 1,635 MSGs — about 400 more than the Corps has now.

During separate testimony to Congress on April 25, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos said it is not yet known what impact the addition of MSGs will have on the planned 182,100 end strength at the end of the drawdown. He said he hopes for additional funding in order to prevent the MSGs being pulled out of combat forces, which would essentially bring the force down to 181,100.

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