In February 1980, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a Marine Corps presence in Europe. Marine Forces Europe has assisted U.S. Naval Forces Europe, NATO, and the European Commands since its inception on 1 July 1980, as Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Europe.
The command was initially established as a “designate” command meaning that during peacetime operations the staff would be the nucleus of a larger staff. In the event of an international crises or war, the staff would be manned as a full component headquarters.
After its creation, the command promptly began to improve the Marine Corps ability to plan and operate in the European Theater, relieving stateside staffs of this demanding duty. The initial staff consisted of 40 Marines and was located in London, England.
The command continued to grow and a snapshot in 1989 depicted more than 180 Marines in 45 separate locations in 19 countries throughout the European Theater. These Marines supported U.S., NATO, or European Commands on Joint, national or unified staffs. They served in billets such as Defense Attaches, Liaison Officers, and United Nations Military Observers. Marines also participated in the Foreign Exchange Program and were students in Foreign Service schools throughout Europe.
During the first decade of its existence, Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Europe, supported Marine Corps involvement in Operations “Provide Comfort”, “Just Cause”, “Provide Promise”, and “Deny Flight”. The command assisted in transitioning Marines to and from Operations “Desert Storm and “Restore Hope.”
To better fulfill the planning and support requirements to Marine forces operating in the European Theater, it was necessary to move the command from London to Stuttgart, Germany during the summer of 1993. Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Europe in Boeblingen, Germany officially opened on 8 November 1993.
In February 1994, the command was renamed, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
In recent years, the command has provided support to a multitude of exercises and real-world contingencies. The command has supported ongoing operations in the Balkan Region including combat operations in Kosovo as well as during Operation Northern Watch. During the support of the Kosovo campaign, the command reached its full manning level and lost its “designate” title. Since that time, the command has remained fully staffed.
Recent instability in the African region required repeated executions of non-combatant evacuation operations in which the command had a planning role. The command has also supported many Partnership for Peace exercises involving nations of the former Soviet Union.
In response to the events of September 11, the command has fully supported the United States’ efforts in the war against terrorism. The command remains at the ready, and continues to support Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Under the guidance of the commander there are more than 1,500 Marines in Europe, approximately 100 of which are assigned to the headquarters in Boeblingen.