June 14, 2013
The Marine Corps and Army have developed quick-reaction forces to respond to attacks such as the one in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador.
The Marines will base 500 troops at Moron Air Force Base in Spain, about 35 miles southeast of Seville, said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine Corps spokesman. They can be flown on short notice to African crises aboard six Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Those aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter and cruise at more than 300 mph. Two KC-130 tanker aircraft have been dedicated to refuel them in flight, which will expand their reach.
The unit is known as the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force for Crisis Response. It will act as a first responder to U.S. embassies in the region on behalf of U.S. Africa Command, Flanagan said. It will be on standby to help evacuate Americans from hot spots and to provide disaster relief and humanitarian missions.
The Army has developed the East Africa Response Force, which operates under the Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa. Its headquarters are at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. The company-size unit is equipped with aircraft to conduct evacuations and rescue missions in the region.
The Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012, exposed the vulnerability of U.S. outposts in dangerous countries. Although Pentagon officials knew of the attack as it was happening, they lacked forces in the region capable of responding fast enough to help. The consulate was overrun by Islamist militants, and Ambassador Christopher Stephens was killed.
The light, quick forces deployed by the Marines and Army are designed to fill that security gap in Africa.
Benghazi proved that the Pentagon needs to respond quickly to “flare-ups,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute.