Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit board an MV-22B Osprey during an exercise at King Faisal Air Base in Jordan in June. The Marine Corps plans to stand up a crisis reponse force in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in fiscal year 2015. (Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone/Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps will form a new land-based unit in the Middle East during fiscal year 2015 that is designed to respond to crises in the region, including emergencies at embassies, sources have told Marine Corps Times.
About 1,900 Marines and sailors will form Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Central Command during fiscal year 2015. The unit will be land-based, similar to the Spain-based SPMAGTF Crisis Response, but the exact location — or locations — where they’ll be based in the Middle East is still being determined, said Lt. Col. Joe Kloppel, a spokesman with Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
“The [Marine Corps] intends to source and deploy SPMAGTF-CENT, which consists of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and logistics combat element providing CENTCOM with a flexible, self-deploying and self-sustaining option for responding to these emergent threats,” Kloppel said.
SPMAGTF-CENT’s ground and logistics forces will be equipped to perform such missions as embassy reinforcement, security backup and humanitarian assistance, Kloppel said.
The unit will be equipped with several fixed-wing and tiltrotor aircraft, a potent combination that creates “an extremely agile crisis response force,” he said. That will, at various times, include attack aircraft like AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets, as well as support aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J Super Hercules, he said.
These assets provide the unit with the flexibility to conduct military-to-military engagements and security cooperation in the Middle East with partner nations, as well as expand to meet bigger requirements, Kloppel said. Staging a special purpose MAGTF in the region provides combatant commanders with another option when crises arise, giving them the ability to manage different types of threats with a scalable-size force.
“While Afghanistan is winding down, there are multiple conflicts, confrontations, and situations that suggest the potential threats in the coming years will increase and yield more simultaneous or near simultaneous crisis-response situations,” he said. “Within hours, SPMAGTF-CENT can use its organic lift assets to move elements of crisis response infantry company with fixed-wing escort to the directed location in order to conduct critical infrastructure protection, embassy reinforcement, or serve as the advance element to a larger force.”
While the details are being worked out on the basing of SPMAGTF-CENT, it’s likely the unit would be based at an existing military installation. The Marine Corps stood up a command element in Bahrain in 2011, which is built around about 150 headquarters staff personnel. The Air Force has a forward presence at an air base in the United Arab Emirates and the Army in Kuwait.