The year ahead will be dynamic and action-packed for the newly merged Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.

The command, which merged in August to streamline operations in the region and place a Marine commander in the theater of operations,  and move the commander of Marines in Europe from Virginia to Germany, is responsible for two of the world’s long-ignored but fastest growing flashpoints.

While both continents were put on the back burner for more than a decade as the U.S. waged a two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian saber rattling in Eastern Europe and Islamic extremism spreading across the Maghreb from West Africa to Somalia, has pushed both continents to the forefront of defense policy.

The landing of a Marine MV-22B Osprey on a Spanish ships in early September is just the first in a large number of exercises and operational tests Marines will see in the two regions over the next year. The Osprey, assigned to with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa, landed aboard Spain's Sept. 9 aboard the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I on Sept. 9 in preparation for Exercise Trident Juncture, which is the largest multinational NATO exercise in more than a decade with 36,000 participants.

The exercise, which will include about 36,000 participants, which will run Oct. 3 through Nov. 6. Marines and other NATO troops will put several new concepts to the test,  execute several proofs of concept including Ospreys operating off European ships as a way to keep Marine raid forces forward staged across the globe amid Navy amphibious assault ship  despite amphib shortages. They'll also and the use of sea-based supplies to launch a ship-to-shore operation nd in Spain, pushing and launch a raid more than 300 miles inland using light armored vehicles during a mock raid.

Both of tThose tests have broader implications for Marines operating in Africa as well. Marines with the Corps' crisis response force for SPMAGTF Crisis Response–AfricaCR-AF have traveled long distances from their home base in Europe to places like South Sudan to respond to embassy security threats and other emergencies. remains based in Europe, with former commanders comparing the distance from Europe to parts of Africa where Marines could likely deploy as akin to a trans-Atlantic journey.

To bridge that distance, the unit is continuing to they will explore the continued use of cooperative security locations, which are temporary forward bases about the size of football fields in Gabon, Senegal and Ghana. The CSLs give Marines a place to , not much more than a fenced off area, where Marines can base gear and sleep while training African forces. Those locations have included Gabon, Senegal and Ghana.

But if the sea basing tests proofs of concept are successful during at Trident juncture, it could open the door to efforts to put Marine afloat near Africa. It would be a huge advantage to have Marines based at sea in or near Several leaders have mentioned the Gulf of Guinea as a possibility, several officials have said, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's commanding officer, Col. Robert Fulford. During a January speech made shortly after he returned from a deployment leading SPMAGTFCR-AF, he said it would help resolve difficulties associated with being too far from targets.

Lessons learned during The results of  large-scale exercises like Trident Juncture will also be used to inform efforts in the years ahead to revamp the Corps' post-war doctrine, Expeditionary Force 21, said Brig. Gen. Julian Alford who heads the Quantico-based Futures Directorate. Officials by Quantico-based officials at Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Futures Directorate are working to update the document to include information on complex threats Marines could face in . Officials there have said EF-21 was rolled out as a living document they now seek to refine to meet complex future threats that could break out in unpredictable, tense regions across Africa or n and Eastern Europe.

Marines with the Corps' new Bulgaria-based In Europe, Marines in late 2015 and 2016 will also stretch their legs and settle in to begin capitalizing on renewed military partnerships, new bases and new units like the Combined Arms Company will also begin training alongside military partners in the region. The unit, which falls under the Romania-based Black Sea Rotational Force and is equipped with finally received its tanks, artillery and light armored vehicles and falls under the Romania-based Black Sea Rotational Force, was stood up to help assure Eastern European allies concerned about Russian aggression in the region.

"It's certainly our intent to convince the Russians and [President Vladimir] Putin to refrain from aggression and return to the community of peaceful nations," Brig. Gen. Norman Cooling, the then-deputy commander of Marine Corps Europe and Africa, told Marine Corps Times in June.  in August. Over the next year and beyond, the unit, now based in Bulgaria, will train and learn from Eastern European allies in combined arms warfare using artillery and mobile armor. Until now Marines on six-month deployments with Black Sea Rotational Force in nearby Romania could only train with European forces in basic infantry warfare.

But, the new Bulgaria-based Combined Arms Company also puts Marines squarely on Russia's fence sending a strong message that the U.S. supports its allies, top Marine leaders have said. The forces there also serve as a trip wire that could discourage Russia from engaging in the sort of violent intervention it has fomented in Ukraine, for fear that they could accidentally strike U.S. assets or personnel and trigger a spiraling response.

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