Visiting SP-MAGTF in Spain: Shaping A Robust and Integrated Capability For Operational Planning


2014-02-03 Second Line of Defense’s Murielle Delaporte had the opportunity to visit the Special Purpose Crisis Response MAGTF at their temporary operating facility in Spain in mid December.  Shortly after she observed their training efforts, the force went on its second mission, this one to South Sudan.

In fact, she is the first journalist to visit the new unit at its location in Spain.

The SP-MAGTF CR provides a very rapid insertion capability to support missions in the AFRICOM and EUCOM area of operations.

In this interview by Murielle Delaporte she discussed the Headquarters set up with Captain Sharon Hyland, SP-MAGTF CR Public Affairs Officer.

Our Headquarter building is where we run all our operations and the training for the operations: in the event that we need to respond to a crisis of any kind in continental Africa where we are focused, we will take not only the ground troops that will go in and carry on the mission, but also a core team of command elements Marines, who are advisers to the Commanders (lawyer, logistics representatives, public affairs officers…).

What is so specific to the mission is that all the elements needed to make sure that an operation can be carried out successfully – the MAGTF team with its Air, Ground, Logistics and Command elements – all go together.

Sharon outside of the SP-MAGTF HQ building,December 2013. Credit PHoto: Murielle Delaporte
Captain Sharon Hyland outside of the SP-MAGTF HQ building. 12/15/13. Credit Photo: Murielle Delaporte

Our response time will vary based on the mission, the changing dynamic of the country, the distance it takes us to travel from where we are and wherever the point of friction is, or where we need to respond to that crisis. So those vary, but what we train for literally on a daily basis is our ability to respond to our four assigned missions, which we identified as the most significant and the most probable, even though we could respond to other crisis as well.

This is what we are training for at all time : part of our ground unit may be training for one exercise right now, while another one is cycling off and doing another one, but they are all trained the exact same way. “Every Marine, a rifleman” is not just a slogan; it is literally what we live by[1]. We can call upon anyone of them to respond and that capability is what differentiates the Marines. 

The USMC mission in a humanitarian assistance might differ from other joint forces mixing army and navy elements, also in partnerships with government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

In some cases the USMC might provide a small, but significant portion of the overall task, whether protection, service security, in-process of evacuees or basic medical care (we do not have technically any organic Marine Corps medical capabilities, but Navy personnel are attached to us in a way that makes it organic).

One of the floor is dedicated to the combat elements and includes in particular our ready room – where our pilots get their briefs and missions -as well as our supporting center for excellence, which is like a small simulation center where we can train some of our FACs [Forward Air Controllers] and JFACs [Joint Forward Air Controllers].

In order to launch a mission with the best forecast for ground conditions, the meteorologist, the air traffic controllers and intelligence planners are working in the same room, as we need both “intel” and weather immediately.

This pairing is usually done depending on our logistic facilities as it makes sense for all of them to work closely and geographically together. Indeed, the meteorologist – whose basic training is quite long, i.e. one year for that reason – is considered one of the Commander’s advisers as he/she can provide such a good glimpse for windows of opportunities and how weather will affect our missions.

Can we land here or there? Can we delay or not? All these are planning factors for how well we can carry our mission and what our response time can be.

For such a small unit, we bring a lot or capability to the point of need rapidly. 

For an earlier piece see the following: