Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response perform a routine training hike aboard Moron Air Base, May 24. (Lance Cpl. Caleb McDonald/Marines)
The Corps is preparing to send a portion of its new fast-reaction force for crisis missions in Africa to Sigonella, Italy, in anticipation of security threats following this weekend’s capture of a suspected al-Qaida operative in Libya.
No members of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response are currently based at Naval Air Station Sigonella on the island of Sicily, but that will soon change, according to a Marine official. Elements of the crisis-response force have been called to move from Morón Air Base in Spain to Italy, the official said.
About 200 Marines will be moved to Sigonella, the official said. The task force is made up of about 550 Marines, built around a reinforced rifle company and supported by Marine aircraft and logistical support.
The crisis-response force has routinely been moved between Spain and Italy as threats emerge in Africa. In July, about 200 Marines were moved to Italy and put on alert for possible action in Egypt. In May, elements of the force were sent to Italy on standby to deal with threats to the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
About 150 Marines with the Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa are already in Sigonella. Those Marines are there on a separate, preplanned mission. They routinely conduct security cooperation missions in various African countries, including Burundi, Uganda, Senegal and others.
If an emergency emerged, it would be the crisis-response force Marines who would respond, the official said.
The moves are anticipated in the aftermath of dual raids conducted by U.S. forces in Libya and Somalia. The raid in Libya on Saturday by U.S. special forces led to the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, who was wanted in connection with the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In Somalia, a Navy SEAL team swam ashore early the same day and engaged in a fierce firefight, thought it did not capture its target, a militant suspected in the recent terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya.
The Marine Corps’ crisis-response force is the service’s newest type of unit. It was created to respond to a range of issues, including humanitarian crises, embassy emergencies and evacuation needs. The service is considering similar types of units for response to crises in the Middle East and Central and South America.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.