The US Marine Corps continues to play a pivotal role in the nation’s defense. In addition to the Marine Corps’ historical connection to the Pacific, and recent support to post-9/11 contingency operations throughout Central Asia, the Marine Corps has a long standing storied relationship with Europe and Africa. The famous stand at Belleau Wood outside Paris in 1918, the Cold War-era Northern Flank mission in Norway, and the even deeper historical connection to Northern Africa, uniquely connect Marines to both continents. The current challenging security environment, with a revanchist Russia and always-dynamic Africa, requires a flexible amphibious option. The US Marine Corps, working with sister US services and NATO partners, is in a unique position to provide this leadership and depth.
As the security environment in Europe and Africa has changed, the Marine Corps’ Europe and Africa service component headquarters, US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa (MARFOREUR/AF), has undergone a variety of compelling changes and growth, particularly in recent years. Now a resident 2-star command, MARFOREUR/AF facilitates multiple European and African engagements in support of global campaigns. In close concert with sister components, MARFOREUR/AF complements their contributions, and enhances the joint, and indeed combined force through NATO. In the coming years, growing US Marine Corps capability, particularly from newer platforms like the F-35 and the speed/distance offered by the MV-22 Osprey, will no doubt increase MARFOREUR/AF’s contribution to both AORs. Additionally, training and readiness enhancements in Europe and Africa contribute to the global force, and mitigate challenges in other theaters. Current and future operations and plans are designed to firmly position Marine Corps relevance in Europe, Africa and beyond commensurate with its historic relationships.
MARFOREUR/AF’s current USEUCOM priority is support to contingency operations in the USEUCOM AOR. As USEUCOM operationalizes its warfighting command oriented to deter Russian aggression, MARFOREUR/AF will focus on Europe’s Northern Flank, and provide a flexible amphibious option. To facilitate this role, MARFOREUR/AF will maintain a rotational presence in Norway (Marine Rotational Force – Europe or MRF-E). MARFOREUR/AF presence in Norway acknowledges this key ally’s geostrategic position and challenges. It also improves cold weather and mountainous interoperability throughout NATO and specifically with Norway and our tri-Marine partners, the UK and Netherlands. Experience gained in Europe contributes to global interoperability, and overall joint force readiness. Training and political limitations or challenges in Asia or the Pacific can be mitigated through enhancement of relationships and interoperability with these key European partners. To further enhance allied amphibious-oriented integration, MARFOREUR/AF organizes the Amphibious Leaders Expeditionary Symposium (ALES). Other notable contributions to USEUCOM include the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway (MCPP-N), and the Georgia Deployment Program (GDP).
MARFOREUR/AF’s current USAFRICOM priority is maintaining a crisis response capability in USAFRICOM’s AOR. This is currently designed as the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF). Its primary concern is the Protection of US Personnel and Facilities (PUSPF) across the continent. SPMAGTF-CR-AF is conceptualized as a “Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)-ashore”; it is comprised of Ground, Air, Logistics and Command Elements similar in size and scope to a more typical US Marine Corps MEU afloat US naval vessels. SPMAGTF-CR-AF is based in Moron, Spain, although it frequently operates from NATO bases throughout the Mediterranean, to include most often Sigonella, Sicily (NASSIG). In addition to SPMAGTF-CR-AF, MARFOREUR/AF conducts exercises and TSC throughout the continent. Exercise AFRICAN LION in North Africa and Security Force Assistance in the Gulf of Guinea are key examples.