The Marine Corps is developing new units across the globe as it shifts from fighting in Afghanistan to responding to a variety of crises and hostilities in other regions of the globe.
The United States has asked Spain for permission to expand its 500-strong Marine rapid-reaction force for Africa by at least 50 percent and extend its presence at the Morón de la Frontera base by one more year, Spanish government sources said. The request was formulated during Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s visit to the White House January 13, 2014. (1)
The Spanish government first authorized the deployment of 500 Marines and eight aircraft to the Morón airbase in April 2013 as an element of rapid-reaction strategy mainly aimed at dealing with crisis situations in Africa. The US approached Spain with the initiative triggered by the September 2012 attack against the US consulate building in Libya.
A bilateral agreement between both nations allows the US to station Marines there on temporary basis. Under article 22 of the agreement in force the Spanish government can approve the increase to anywhere between 750 and 900 Marines without going to parliament. The request Mr. Obama made during the summit presupposes that the “temporary” presence is to last at least two years. Spanish El Pais reports that according to diplomatic sources, this agreement was meant to cover specific situations lasting no more than a few months. It says some reports say Mariano Rajoy can take the decision on his own, while others consider it better if the decision is approved by Congress.
Spain is also to provide forward deployment for US naval ships starting this year.
The USS Donald Cook, the naval component of the anti-missile shield, will arrive at the Rota Naval Base on February 11 from Norfolk, Virginia. A second ship the USS Ross will arrive in June and the two other vessels, the USS Porter and the USS Carney will arrive in 2015.
In total 1,100 marines plus their families will be installed in the Cádiz base. The main part of the mission is to patrol the Eastern Mediterranean and to intercept, with the help of radars in Turkey and Poland, a hypothetical attack from countries like Iran…
The United States Navy in Rota says it is ready for the new arrivals, three of the old quays have been renovated and a fourth has been constructed at a cost of 160 million €. (4) Overall there are over 60 thousand US military stationed in Europe at present.
Marine Corps boosts contingency response capability
Approximately 500 Marines and sailors arrived aboard Moron Air Base last May to serve as Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF), a new expeditionary unit positioned forward to respond to limited crisis within the Mediterranean and African area-of-responsibility. SP-MAGTF Crisis Response is a rotational force of Marines and sailors sourced from a variety of units from II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., temporarily positioned on Moron Air Base, Spain with built-in command, ground, aviation and logistics elements. It is organized, trained and equipped to accomplish missions across a range of military operations.
The force is to be airborne within six hours of receiving orders, providing the type of rapid response that was not possible during the Benghazi attack in 2012. It includes 225 Marines equipped for ground combat along with intelligence and communications specialists, plus another 225 personnel to man and maintain the six V-22 Osprey aircraft and two C-130 refueling aircraft that make up the aviation component of the force. With specific aircraft assigned to the team at all times it can get airborne in the time required. It reports to Gen. David Rodriguez, chief of U.S. Africa Command. In December, 2013 the Marines from SP - MAGTF evacuated US citizens from South Sudan.
The Marine sea-based expeditionary units (one in Hawaii, one now in Australia and the western Pacific, and one in the Middle East), are normally embarked with Navy amphibious ready groups. Now they are added by new crisis-response units which are land-based and operate largely independent of the Navy. A special team of 100 Marines is based in the United States that could quickly fly to an area to back up embassy guards if an embassy is under threat.
As combat winds down in Afghanistan, Marine Corps leadership is touting crisis response as a core competency of the service. Shortly after SP-MAGTF left Camp Lejeune for Spain, MARFORSOUTH started to form another crisis response force to respond to contingencies in the Western Hemisphere.
In the Pacific the Corps plans to have its forces distributed in many locations with some 5,000 Marines eventually based in Guam, and 2,500 in Australia on a rotational basis. That’s in addition to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which continues to deploy from Okinawa. That will increase flexibility for rapidly responding to events in the region.
The Corps also has reconfigured its MEUs to respond in more locations, something highlighted by the hostilities in Syria. When the U.S. was on the brink of a military strike there in August, the 26th MEU, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., was distributed among three ships in the Middle East that were hundreds of miles apart. The amphibious assault ship Kearsarge was in the United Arab Emirates and the amphibious dock landing ship Carter Hall was off the coast of Africa in the Seychelles, each nearly a week from the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean. The amphibious transport dock San Antonio was in the Gulf of Aden, however, and began steaming through the Red Sea and Suez Canal in case Marines were needed.
Army joins the trend
The Army considers forward-deployed crisis-response units similar to the Marine Corps’ instead of ceding that mission entirely. Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the crisis-response mission has taken on greater urgency, “I would say that I’d like to see the Army place more emphasis on the growth industry of the national security interest of protecting American citizens abroad; don’t yield that entirely to the Marine Corps.”
In addition to those permanently-stationed forces, the Pentagon last year approved a plan to provide a brigade-sized combat unit to be part of the NATO Response Force, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno Ray Odierno said. “In the past, we have supported it but never with a brigade,” Odierno told an audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. “That brigade will come from the United States.” This is part of Odierno vision to retain the Army’s ability to rapidly deploy forces anywhere in the world. In addition to the new NATO Response Force role, the Army has also repurposed the massive training areas at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels into the Joint Multinational Training Center, Odierno said. “We are now using that as a platform to train with our NATO Allies and other European partners,” he said. “I can bring forces from the United States … over there to train with them. So although we have less people stationed forward, I like this set better because I think it is going to enable us to do more with our partners in a lot of different places.”
US Army Joins NRF
U.S. soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) are preparing for a rotation with the NATO Response Force, marking the first time the U.S. has committed one of its primary fighting formations to the international effort.
The NATO Response Force is made up of a land component command, typically a three-star corps headquarters, and a brigade-size force with combat support and combat service support. There are nine European-led corps headquarters, each with about 300 to 450 troops that rotate on an annual basis. In 2014, the Rapid Reaction Corps-France, for which Kulmayer works, will be the corps on standby. The French also will provide the brigade-size force, if needed, in 2014. In a way it is similar to the 82nd Airborne Division capable of responding to contingencies around the world on short (or no) notice.
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The times they are a changing. New realities and new threats appear. There is much talk about US military programs endangered by economic woes. At that, the services reshape to adapt to the situation and maintain the capability to strike in faraway areas on short (or no) notice.