MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- More than 100 Marines and sailors assigned to 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to their home station in eastern North Carolina, Jan. 13-15, after a five-month deployment where they were based in Morón, Spain; Mihail Kogălniceanu, Romania and Sigonella, Italy.
The service members from 26th MEU took control Aug. 4, 2014, as the command element of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa and the Black Sea Rotational Force. About 1,500 service members were deployed from 26th MEU; 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Combat Logistics Battalion 2 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264.
SPMAGTF-CR-AF is postured to respond to a broad range of military operations in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, including U.S. Embassy reinforcement; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel; training with partner nations; and other missions as directed.
In addition to acting as a self-deploying crisis response force, SPMAGTF-CR-AF supported bilateral training events with partner nations throughout Europe and theater security cooperation missions with partner nations in Africa.
Most notably, the forces supported Operation United Assistance, the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis in Liberia, until Dec. 1, 2014 when they were relieved by U.S. Army aviation assets from the 101st Airborne Division, who assumed the long-term responsibility of support to the OUA mission.
The force was the most available and most ready to get down there quickly, said Lt. Col. David Olson, 26th MEU executive officer. Olson said humanitarian assistance is a standard mission for the Marine Corps, although support to fight Ebola in Liberia was unexpected.
The MEU will begin training this spring for a late summer deployment in its traditional role at sea with a force of 2,500 Marines and sailors aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.