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Marine crisis response group returns home from Mideast

Staff Sgt. Jose Jimenez hugs his wife, Adela, after returning home to Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, from a 7 1/2-month deployment to the Middle East. Jimenez, his wife and infant daughter moved to California 2 months before the Marine left for deployment.

JENNIFER HLAD/STARS AND STRIPES

By JENNIFER HLAD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 15, 2015

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A crisis response unit that was created last year and deployed to the Middle East just as tensions were rising in Iraq returned home Tuesday.

The unit, dubbed Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force–Crisis Response–Central Command, or SPMAGTF-CR-CC, was formed in April 2014 to give U.S. Central Command a forward-deployed unit ready to respond to any crisis.

For this SPMAGTF, the main crisis was Operation Inherent Resolve. Many of the unit’s Marines went to Al Asad to advise Iraqi soldiers, though parts of the unit were based in six different countries in the region and performed a range of missions, Marines said.

Marine officials would not reveal which other countries the unit worked in but said they were busy from the time they arrived in September until they began turning over responsibility to the next iteration of SPMAGTF-CR-CC. Marines from the unit went into Iraq for the advising mission shortly after President Barack Obama authorized 1,500 additional U.S. troops there in early November.

The deployment was Capt. Patrick Jones’ first. His 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, clung to him Tuesday and tried to get him to pet their dog as he looked for his bags. She said she was very excited her daddy was back.

Jones said he and the other Marines were very busy during the deployment and that it was good to be home.

The Marines worked 12 to 14 hours every day for the 7½ months they were gone, said Staff Sgt. Jose Jimenez, which made the deployment seem long. It was his fourth deployment but first since he’s had a family.

Jimenez’s wife, Adela, said she was thankful she could communicate with her husband while he was away; the couple moved to California from Washington with their infant daughter, Melina, just two months before he left.

Like a Marine Expeditionary Unit, the SPMAGTF comprises ground troops, logistics Marines, aviation assets and a headquarters group. But unlike an MEU, the unit is not based at sea.

In an interview earlier this year, Lt. Gen. David Berger said most combatant commanders would ask for twice as many MEUs and twice as many ships, if they could, because sea-based crisis response units can move around quickly and fully sustain themselves at sea.

But, he said, since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to create more MEUs, special purpose Marine air-ground task forces can provide many of the same capabilities.

The first iteration of SPMAGTF-CR-CC was formed less than six months before it deployed, so it did not complete a full pre-deployment training cycle. But the unit that has replaced it, known by the same acronym, trained and was certified in its ability to execute a host of crisis-response missions, including tactical recovery of aircraft, embassy reinforcement and theater security cooperation.

“All of our supporting elements and their Marines have been preparing for this deployment for months,” said Lt. Col. Jacob Matt, executive officer of the second SPMAGTF-CR-CC, which has already begun arriving in the Middle East.

“A MAGTF is by definition a conglomeration of units with different talents and specialties. The effort it took to consolidate these different units into one cohesive team should not go unnoticed.”

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com
Twitter: @jhlad

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