550 Marines head to Spain in support of AFRICOM
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 25, 2013
STUTTGART, Germany — An Africa-focused Marine rapid reaction force is bound for Morón, Spain, which will serve as a temporary base for the 550-strong unit, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos told Congress on Wednesday.
Amos said the unit, which will serve the needs of U.S. Africa Command boss Gen. David Rodriguez, also could eventually be repositioned on the African continent if U.S. diplomatic officials make such an arrangement.
“Right now, they’re temporarily going to Morón, Spain, as a placeholder,” Amos said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I think they are going to move sometime. It wouldn’t surprise me to find them moving around the African continent.”
For several years, the Marine Corps has been developing plans for a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force to bolster the capabilities of AFRICOM.
Last year, Marines based a MAGTF in Sigonella, Italy, that conducts a range of training missions in Africa, including the training of friendly forces for counter-terrorism missions in places such as Somalia. The new Spain-based MAGTF also will have the ability to conduct training, though its primary purpose will be to serve as a crisis reaction force, Amos said.
The need for such a force was underscored in September when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, came under attack leaving four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The attack exposed AFRICOM’s lack of crisis-response capability.
Since then, AFRICOM has steadily been bolstering its capacities. In October, for example, AFRICOM finally received its so-called Commander’s in-Extremis Force comprised of Green Berets who function as crisis responders.
The new Marine MAGTF, which comes equipped with significant airlift capability, provides additional firepower for AFRICOM.
On Monday, six MV-22 Ospreys began their journey to Spain, Amos said.
“If something happens you now have an asset you can move very quickly, along with the C-130s, tankers and MV-22s, you can move very quickly to the African continent in response to a crisis.”