WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Marine Corps wants to establish a new crisis response unit that could rapidly deploy to trouble spots in Europe and North Africa to do everything from evacuating personnel from American embassies to providing disaster relief, a Marine Corps official tells CNN.
“This is not a response to Benghazi, but it’s a lesson learned,” the official said.
The military has been criticized by Congress for not having nearby rescue capability the night of the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya last September 11.
The plan now being formed would call for the unit to be based ashore at Sigonella, Italy, and could include up to 1,500 Marines.
Sigonella’s location in Sicily would give the Marines the ability to use their V-22 tilt rotor aircraft to quickly fly to trouble spots in either North Africa or Europe, the official said.
In a crisis, a unit would fly in on short notice equipped with weapons it could carry, but would not likely bring armored vehicles.
Marine Corps Commandant James Amos ordered his staff to begin assembling a concept for such a unit about two months ago, the official said.
The idea would have to be approved by the defense secretary.
The official declined to be identified because no formal decisions have been made to establish such a unit.
The Marines involved would likely come from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, if the idea is approved.
This would be separate from another Marine unit that is earmarked specifically to assist in training forces of African nations, the official said. That unit was potentially available in the Benghazi aftermath, but was not equipped to assist in such a crisis.
Congress also ordered the Pentagon following Benghazi to develop a plan to increase the number of Marines in the embassy security guard program by up to 1,000.
The Marines are looking at ways to improve security at embassies and other diplomatic facilities.