An MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 connects to a KC-130J Hercules during aerial refueling training over Djibouti in September. The Corps is set to move forward with its plans for a crisis response unit dedicated to northern Africa and eastern Europe. It could include 1,000 Marines and a dozen aircraft, including six Ospreys. (Cpl. Michael Petersheim / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps is on the verge of announcing the formation of a new crisis-response unit that would be put in place to respond to emergencies in northern Africa and eastern Europe, according to a Marine official with knowledge of the plan.
The deployment and size of the force is still considered "pre-decisional," the official said Thursday. NBC News reported Wednesday that it could include about 1,000 Marines and a dozen aircraft, including six MV-22 Ospreys, but the Marine official said that is still unclear.
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2013/01/marine-amos-crisis-response-unit-012913-w/">told Marine Corps Times on Jan. 28 that the force was in development, and would be available to respond in theaters "where there is the greatest need." He declined to identify them at the time, but said one geographic combatant commander was interested.
"We can do this," Amos told Marine Corps Times. "This is what we do for a living. … We would go forward into a combatant commander's theater with this capability and give it to him, and then we would refresh the capability every six months."
Amos said the new unit would be considered a special purpose Marine air-ground task force, with personnel from the Corps' ground combat, aviation and logistics communities. It would be a separate entity from SPMAGTF-Africa, Amos said. That unit is based out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, frequently deploying in 15- or 20-man teams to advise, assist and train friendly militaries in Africa. The most recent iteration deployed from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in January with about 130 Marines.
"It could be crisis response. It could be reinforcement. It could be humanitarian assistance. It could be training and advising," Amos said of the new force in development. "And, it's bigger than what we have on the ground in Sigonella."
The new force would be capable of responding to crises with similarities to recent turmoil in Mali, Algeria, Libya and other countries in northern Africa. In December, Amos raised the possibility in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine.
"If this part of the world is going to stay problematic, then how do you address it," Amos said in comments published Dec. 10. "Do you have to address it with large, huge forces? I don't think so. But you gotta address it. So what we're going to do is built a rapidly employable not deployable, because they'll already be there rapidly employable force that can help the combatant commanders out, and we're working on that right now, and I think we'll have that in the next 30 days."
The Corps has filled a variety of missions in Africa this year. Elements of SPMAGTF-Africa are currently reinforcing the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya's capital, said Capt. Lauren Schultz, a spokeswoman for the command. She declined additional comment about the mission, but the unit comprises mostly Marines with 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit out of Garden City, N.Y.
Orders for the new Marine unit will likely go to the secretary of defense for approval late next week, NBC News reported on Wednesday. If approved, the land-based force will deploy from Camp Lejeune, N.C., early this spring. Like SPMAGTF-Africa, it could be based at Sigonella, the report said.