Hundreds of US Marines were sent to Spain to create a rapid-reaction force to protect US citizens and embassies in North Africa. The team is based at Moron Air Base in the southern region of the country.
The location of the air base allows quick access to conflicts in Northern Africa, the Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN.
Once fully staffed, the operation will be capable of being airborne within 6 hours of receiving word of threats like the one in September in Benghazi, Libya, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others died in an assault at the U.S. Consulate.
Six V-22 Osprey aircraft and two C-130 refueling planes will be stationed at the base in Spain, with 225 personnel assigned to the aviation component of the unit, the official said. Another 225 Marines will be equipped and trained for combat along with intelligence and communications specialists. The duties of the remaining 50 Marines were not reported.
The team will be responsible for providing protection for embassies and diplomatic compounds under attack or receiving threats, protecting US citizens, rescuing downed pilots and assisting other elements of the military in the event Americans need to be evacuated, the official said.
There are approximately 500 US Marines at the base in Spain.