Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response Africa

SPMAGTF-CR-AF Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response Africa

The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force -Crisis Response Africa or SPMAGTF-CR-AF is based in Spain but is responsible for missions and operations in Africa. The force, composed of Marines and Sailors, is provided by Marine units from across the Corps on a rotational basis. The expeditionary force is based at Moron Air Base, Spain. The SPMAGTF-CR-AF provides the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF) and U.S. Africa Command with a balanced force with built-in ground, aviation, C2, and logistics elements that provide a wide range of capabilities.

Mission. The mission of the SPMAGTF-CR-AF includes disaster relief, support to U.S. embassies, non-combatant evacuation (NEO), humanitarian assistance, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), and other military operations. The force has been active since 2003 and has approximately 850 personnel. The unit has responded to a number of critical events on the African continent over the past few years. One event was the South Sudan (Juba) evacuation operation that occurred in late December 2013 to January 2014 – assisting the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Another important mission was the reinforcement of a U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

Support to SOF. While not a special operations force (SOF) unit the Marines crisis response element does have some mission overlap with U.S. special operations units. In addition, the crisis response element provides capabilities that enhance and support the SOF mission. One excellent example is the integration with SOF in the Libya area of responsibility where SOF has been on the ground working with partner units. [1]

V-22 Osprey (USMC Photo)
V-22 Osprey (USMC Photo)

Aircraft. The organic air assets of the unit include MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, UC-35, and KC-130J Hercules aerial refueling tankers. These aircraft allow the unit to self-deploy and self-sustain to many regions of Africa. The long reach of the KC-130Js coupled with the unique capabilities of the Osprey (vertical landings) provide enhanced mission postures in Africa and in the Mediterranean region. Originally the unit had twelve Ospreys and six C-130s; but operational requirements elsewhere caused a reduction in aircraft in 2017. [2]

Organization. The force has a reinforced company of infantry Marines as well as command, logistic, aviation, and sustainment elements. These elements come from a variety of Marine units on a rotational basis and are melded together into one composite unit. During the early stages of a crisis the unit may forward-deploy elements to Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, or Dakar, Senegal (where the U.S maintains a small complex on a Senegalese military base).

US Marines with SPMAGTF-CR-AF Train members of Senegal's Compagnie Fusilier de Marin Commando during 4-week training exercise in Senegal.
US Marines with SPMAGTF-CR-AF Train members of Senegal’s Compagnie Fusilier de Marin Commando during 4-week training exercise in Senegal.

Training. The unit conducts training exercises and activities with other regional partners to include units from Spain, France, and the African continent. The unit participates in bilateral exercises as well as theater security cooperation (TSC) activities.

Unit Origins. The SPMAGTF-CR-AF was created (earlier Marine units had similar missions) in 2013 in response to the 2012 Benghazi, Libya attacks. On September 11, 2012 the US Consulate in Benghazi was attacked by a mob (some reports indicate it was a planned terrorist attack) and the US Ambassador to Libya as well as security personnel were killed. One of the lessons learned from this event was the need for a response force that could respond to similar incidents and other crisis on the continent of Africa in the future.

SP-MAGTF in Other Regions. Based on the success of the Africa-focused force other units have been established with the same mission for the CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM areas of responsibility. The formation of the crisis response unit fills a gap in mission coverage that the Marine Expeditionary Units based on Navy ships could not respond to.


[1] In January 2017 the crisis response task force was called upon to evacuate an injured special operator from Libya. See “Marines Rescued Injured Operator from Libya in Emergency Mission”Military.com, January 4, 2017.

[2] See “Marines’ Africa Crisis Task Force Gears for Change as It Shrinks”Military.com, December 30, 2016.




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