STUTTGART, Germany -- A team of crisis response Marines has moved from Spain to a U.S. base in southern Italy in response to new security concerns in northern Africa, according to U.S. European Command. About 180 Marines and sailors along with two KC-130s and four Ospreys, were moved Tuesday to Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, military officials said. The base is a strategic launching pad that offers quick access to potential hotspots in northern Africa. The team is ready to respond if needed to undisclosed security concerns at U.S. installations in the region, military officials said. "The contingent was moved because we have concerns about the security situation in north Africa. I can’t get into specific intelligence, but the security situation in north Africa warranted this precautionary move," said Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, EUCOM spokesman.
The Moron, Spain-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response unit, formed last year in the wake of the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, is mobilized periodically in connection with potential threats in Africa. The unit also took part in embassy evacuation efforts in South Sudan last year. In March, the Defense Department announced it would be boosting its presence in Spain, adding more Marines to the MAGTF, which was slated to grow from 500 to 850 Marines. Hicks said military and State Department officials elected to preposition the Marines in Sicily "to be prepared to protect U.S. personnel and facilities in U.S. installations in north Africa." "Given their commitment to protecting the men and women who serve our embassies around the world and out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Department of Defense, in coordination and consultation with the Department of State, is positioning resources in the region in the event they are needed in the future," Hicks said.
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