Members of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, board an MV-22B Osprey aircraft on Morón Air Base, Spain, on May 13. The Marines were moved to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in preparation to respond to threats at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Northern Africa. (Lance Cpl. Alexander Hill/Marine Corps)
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About 180 Marines with the Spain-based crisis response force have moved to Italy at the request of the State Department to respond to crises at diplomatic facilities in Northern Africa. The Marines are supported by four MV-22B Osprey aircraft and two KC-130J Super Hercules. (Lance Cpl. Alexander Hill/Marine Corps)
Nearly a quarter of the Corps’ Spain-based crisis response force has been prepositioned in southern Italy at the request of the State Department to respond more quickly to diplomatic crises that might break out in northern Africa.
About 180 members of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response moved from their base in Morón, Spain, to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, on Tuesday. Moving a portion of the force to Sigonella was done in coordination and consultation with the State Department in order to be prepared to protect U.S. personnel and facilities on U.S. installations in North Africa, said Master Sgt. Chad McMeen, a spokesman with Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. Although based in Europe, the unit is responsible for responding to crises in Africa.
“Due to concerns with the security situation in North Africa, a portion of SP-MAGTF Crisis Response was moved after consulting and coordinating with the State Department,” McMeen said. “It is unknown at this time how long they will be repositioned in Italy.”
McMeen declined to comment on specific countries where Marines could be called upon to respond. But Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said the move to push the Marines closer to Africa was not due to the situation in Nigeria, where some U.S. troops are assisting with efforts to rescue more than 200 school-aged girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a militant terrorist group.
The personnel moved to Italy include pilots, crew, maintainers and infantry Marines, McMeen said. They are supported by four MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and two KC-130J Super Hercules, which can refuel the Ospreys mid-air.
In January, a squad-sized team from SPMAGTF-CR evacuated more than 20 people from the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan as security conditions in the world’s newest country deteriorated. In October, about 200 members of the force were sent to Italy in anticipation of security threats following the capture in Libya of Abu Anas al-Libi, who was wanted in connection with the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Prompted by the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Marine Corps activated its crisis-response force several months later to respond to emergencies throughout Africa. The Marine Corps recently boosted the size of this unit, spreading the additional Marines between Morón Air Base in Spain and Romania, bringing the number up to nearly 1,000.