US Marines are being sent to Spain as part of a new rapid reaction force that will respond to threats against US citizens, government personnel, or installations in Africa.
In all, 500 Marines will be part of the new task force, which is based at Moron Air Base in southern Spain. The base will give the task force easy access to northern Africa, where security concerns have grown since the September 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Deployment for the new unit began on Wednesday. When it is fully operational, the unit will be airborne within six hours of receiving orders. They will provide the kind of response that the Pentagon stated was not available last September.
The Marine unit’s duty in Spain will be to protect embassies and diplomatic compounds under attack or receiving threats. The group will also protect US citizens, rescue downed pilots, and assist with other elements of the US military if they need to evacuate American citizens for any reason.
Spain gave their final approval for the group’s presence at Moron Air Base on Friday. The team will be in place in 30 days. It is expected to include 225 Marines equipped for ground combat, along with intelligence and communications specialists. Another 225 personnel will man the six V-22 Osprey aircraft, along with two C-130 refueling aircraft.
The Marines in Spain will be equipped to go into areas that have combat conditions. They can also be deployed without a local government’s permission if they are ordered to do so. They will have grenade launchers, machine guns, and mortars in their possession.
The new unit is part of the Marine Corps’ efforts to beef up security around embassies. In doing so, the military branch is also adding 1,000 Marines to the embassy guard force. The new numbers will nearly double the size of the existing force. There will also be a special team of 100 Marines in the United States that can fly quickly to an area to back up embassy guards.