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Marine Corps Osprey squadron arrives in Spain for AFRICOM mission

Cpl. Austin Eslinger observes the landing zone at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga., for an MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, Dec. 10, 2020. The squadron arrived at Moron Air Base in Spain last week for a rotation in support of U.S. Africa Command’s North and West Africa Response Force.

YURITZY GOMEZ/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 5, 2021

A Marine Corps Osprey tiltrotor squadron has arrived at Moron Air Base in Spain for a rotation in support of U.S. Africa Command’s North and West Africa Response Force, which conducts contingency and crisis operations throughout the two regions.

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced) took over the support mission from Squadron 266 on Thursday, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa said in a statement.

Both squadrons are based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

VMM-261 will work “alongside the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to accomplish our shared crisis response mission in North and West Africa, supporting our allies and partners in the region,” the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Travis Stephenson, said in the statement. He described the mission an “incredibly important” one.

Known as the “Raging Bulls,” VMM-261 flies MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft.

Countries in the response force’s area of operations include Libya, where civil strife and fighting have contributed to chronic instability since 2011.

Violence in West Africa’s Sahel region by militants linked to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida has been on the rise in recent years.

Four Green Berets and four Nigerien troops were killed in an ambush by IS-linked militants in Niger in 2017, in what was the largest loss of American lives in combat in Africa since the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. And last week, four United Nations peacekeepers were killed by Islamic militants in Mali, which has been trying to contain an insurgency since 2012.

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A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey rests at Moron Air Base, Spain, March 29, 2019. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced) arrived at Moron on April 1, 2021, for a rotation in support of U.S. Africa Command’s North and West Africa Response Force.
24TH MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT