Marine rapid reaction unit moved to Italy amid escalating crisis in Libya

Marines with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force participate in training in this June 2012 photo.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 15, 2013

STUTTGART, Germany — Just weeks after arriving in Spain, a “small element” from a new 550-Marine-strong rapid reaction force has repositioned to southern Italy amid deteriorating security conditions in nearby Libya, where there have been a series of recent evacuations by western diplomats, defense officials said Wednesday.

“The unit, which is temporarily deployed to Sigonella, is aimed at providing a quick response in the region if required,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Naval Station Sigonella already serves as home to a separate Marine Air Ground Task Force, which is focused on a range of training missions across the African continent. While that unit provides a limited crisis response capability, the new Morón, Spain-based task force is focused mainly on crisis response, according to Marine officials.

Pentagon officials did not specify how many had been moved to Italy, but described the team as a “small element.”

The need for such a contingent 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.

The new Marine MAGTF, which includes six MV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft, has the airlift capability to deliver Marines to hotspots across Africa.

“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,” Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said last month.