Marine Task Force in Africa Focused on Support of Special Operations Forces
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — A recent deployment of a Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force focused more on supporting special operations forces than previous deployments had, the unit’s commander said. He also noted that despite a reduction in aviation capability the readiness of the aviation element increased.
“The entire focus of our deployment was support to special forces,” Col. Daniel Q. Greenwood, commander, Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF), said June 8 at the Potomac Institute.
The task force, centered on forces from the Second Marine Regiment, was deployed to Moron, Spain, from Oct. 1 to April 17. The force operated from Moron; Sigonella, Sicily; Entebbe, Uganda; and Djibouti. At one point, the force had its 12 MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft staged in three locations. The force participated in 10 operations — including in Somalia and Libya — and 13 theater security cooperation events in 10 African nations.
The unit’s 12 MV-22Bs and four KC-130J Hercules refueler/transport aircraft were reduced to six MV-22Bs and three KC-130Js in January, Greenwood said, because of the need for MV-22Bs and their maintainers in stateside units for training Osprey personnel. However, the readiness of the remaining six Ospreys increased because the unit was able to concentrate all of its maintenance personnel at one site.
“It ended up a very good-news story,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood also said the first deployment of a Reserve Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron was a boon to the readiness of the SPMAGTF because the squadron’s maintenance personnel, many of whom in their civilian lives were mechanics and artisans of a Fleet Readiness Center, were very skilled and experienced in aircraft maintenance.
“They performed magnificently,” he said.
He noted that when his unit had 12 Ospreys the pilots averaged five-to-10 flight hours per month, but when the unit was halved and consolidated, the pilots averaged 15 hours per month, a boon to readiness.
The SPMAGTF also began the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative, a move to use European navy platforms as sea bases for the SPMAGTF, including its MV-22Bs, with the advantages of operating just outside territorial waters. The unit embarked staff on the Spanish Navy carrier Juan Carlos and the French Navy helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc for planning, but plans to embark Ospreys were overtaken by operational commitments.
“I expect that [the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative] will continue with the Marine Corps,” Greenwood said, noting that the Spanish, French, Dutch and U.K. navies may be involved in the future.