The latest contingent to support the Marine Corps’ unit responsible for responding to crises in Africa arrived in Spain this weekend for a six-month deployment.
More than 1,000 North Carolina-based Marines and sailors departed Jan. 2 for Móron, Spain, where they will become the latest to staff Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, according to a Marine news release. The unit is manned by infantry, logistics and aviation Marines on a rotating basis.
This round, units include 2nd Marine Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, from Camp Lejeune; Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 from Marine Corps Air Station New River; and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252from MCAS Cherry Point, the release states.
The Marines deployed with a dozen MV-22B Ospreys tiltrotor aircraft, four KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refueling tankers and one UC-12 Huron turbo-prop plane, which is a small aircraft often used for passenger and cargo transportation or medical evacuation.
While in Spain, the Marines will engage in international military exchanges and training exercises with partner nations. But their top priority is to stand ready to respond to unforeseen crisis on a moment’s notice, including calls for boosted security at an embassy or the evacuation of State Department personnel.
The Osprey and Super Hercules team has proven vital for land-based crisis response units. About a year ago, the special purpose MAGTF used KC-130s and MV-22s to slingshot Marines across the continent of Africa from their base in Móron to reach the embassy in Juba, South Sudan. With that country facing violent unrest, the unit led the operation to evacuate embassy personnel.
In July, two Ospreys from the crisis response force kept watch on a convoy during a ground evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Libya as State Department personnel were moved across the border to Tunisia.
To prepare for their deployment, the Marines participated in a five-day exercise meant to simulate many of the unpredictable crisis response missions they could be called on to conduct. The exercise, held across North Carolina and Virginia, was meant to test commanders’ — and their troops’ — ability to operate across a widely dispersed area as they likely will in Africa.
During the exercise, which lasted 120 hours and concluded Dec. 18, Marines were tasked with delivering aid to a fictitious country following a simulated earthquake, according to a Marine news release. That required Marines to respond to instability in the wake of the natural disaster by evacuating a mock embassy, and working with role players.
Marines deploying in support of Black Sea Rotational Force, which is based out of Romania, also participated.