SIGONELLA, Italy – The anticipation is over, but the hard work is just beginning as the next iteration of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 arrived here July 8 for their six-month rotation in support of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa.
The Marines and sailors of Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13 are part of a rotational force primarily staffed from 4th Combat Engineer Battalion stationed in Baltimore. They will conduct theater security cooperation, military-to-military engagements and provide resources to support limited crisis response within U.S. Africa Command’s area of responsibility.
“The Marines just finished a four-month long training package and I have no doubt they are ready for the real thing,” said Lt. Col. Jack Estepp, the executive officer of Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.
The planning process and arrangements up to this point were non-stop as final logistical decisions were sorted and the coordination of multiple moving parts was synchronized. The arrival alone had to be planned down to the smallest detail from the charter bus’ designated pit stops to the proper weight distribution on the departing aircraft.
“A lot of learning took place as we planned for our upcoming deployment,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Braith, the assistant logistics officer with Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13.
With such a small force and so many moving parts, it is no wonder they conduct an involved screening process in order to ensure the Marines and sailors are physically and mentally prepared for this particular assignment. The task force is comprised of more than 30 different reserve units throughout the United States, yet within a few short months, the esprit de corps developed rapidly within this tight-knit group.
“Junior Marines had to fill senior billets and they did very well stepping up to the plate,” said Braith.
Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13’s mission is to assist African nations in addressing their security concerns. The task force is equipped to provide assistance in a variety of topics including logistics, counter terrorism, communications, non-lethal weapons training, maritime security force assistance, military planning, small-unit leadership and vehicle maintenance.
“Our primary focus is to build stronger relationships with our African partner nations,” said Estepp, a Poway, Calif., native.
Their ability to support simultaneous engagements throughout the region is eased by their location in southern Europe. The challenge will be ensuring all missions are simultaneously coordinated and conducted successfully.
“Moving Marines’ gear in and out of a continent triple the size of the United States will be a challenge all itself,” said Braith, a Sebeka, Minn., native. “This is such a dynamic situation that everybody is excited.”