Marine Mideast Crisis Unit to Be Fully Capable by Nov. 1

A Marine Corps quick-reaction force in the Middle East for missions such as embassy evacuations and humanitarian aid will be fully manned by Nov. 1, according to the general behind the unit’s expansion.

The force will increase to 2,300 Marines from about 1,500 currently, General James Amos said in interview before retiring as Marine Corps commandant on Oct. 17.

“It’s pretty close” to being fully fielded, Amos said of the new unit. “We don’t know what the crisis will be,” but it “could happen overnight. If it does, ‘boom,’ he’s got Marines” with V-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys, Amos said of Army General Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command.

The unit is one legacy of Amos, the service’s first aviator to serve as commandant, as he sought to reshape the service after more than a decade of land warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amos managed the congressionally mandated expansion of the Marine embassy security program after the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Separately, the Marine Corps in April 2013 deployed a crisis-response unit for Africa based in Moron, Spain, that has deployed Marines and Ospreys to West Africa as part of the Pentagon’s Ebola assistance mission.

The new Mideast unit “can do a show of force,” and “we can train” with “our Gulf partners,” Amos said. The forces will be based in Kuwait and in other locations he didn’t disclose.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, on Sept. 30 disclosed what was then to be a 1,500-person unit known as a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

It will remain in the region indefinitely, rotating personnel and key equipment such as the V-22 made by Boeing Co. and Textron Inc. and the aerial refueling model of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s C-130J transport, Kirby said.

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