The U.S. Marine Security Augmentation Unit has deployed twice in the past 30 days to support and protect embassies in Africa and the Caribbean.
The quick reaction force consists of 145 Marines who can deploy in small teams at a moment’s notice from Quantico, Virginia to anywhere in the world – including a small African nation like Eswatini.
A team of 13 Marines deployed to Eswatini on June 30 as thousands of protesters took to the streets to decry their King Mswati III, who lives in luxury as his citizens starve.
Another team saw deployment on July 16 in the aftermath of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse to support the U.S. Embassy “out of an abundance of caution.”
These two missions marked the 106th and 107th missions for the MSAU since the group was founded in 2013, Task and Purpose reported.
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The MSAU was founded in the aftermath of the 2012 attack on Benghazi, which left a U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans dead. The members bring a variety of occupational experience and specialties, including medical, close quarters combat, marksmanship, security analysis and augmentation, creating one of the most experienced and elite security details on the planet.
The corps mainly deploys via air, but also includes sea-based units and land-based Special Purpose Air-Ground task forces.
New members undergo training at the Marine Security Guard School in Quantico for six weeks, during which they learn the details of embassy duty and qualify for use of particular firearms: the Glock 19 pistol, the short-barrelled MK18 carbine rifle and the M870 shotgun.
Officers then serve at an overseas post before a region commander might recommend them to join the MSAU.
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“Marines assigned to duty at MSAU are screened by Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Headquarters for performance, decision making, and leadership and tactical skills,” said Capt. Andrew Wood, a Marine spokesman. “Once assigned to the unit, the MSAU staff assess each Marine’s ability and provide advanced training in MSG and Diplomatic Security skills.”
The Marines alone do not deploy to defend these sites, though: The Diplomatic Security Service Mobile Deployments team might assist, which it did during the Eswatini protests, according to a press release from the Defense Department.
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The MSAU also deployed on such notable occasions as the Bangkok protests in 2013-14 and the Yellow Vest protests in Paris in 2017.
One of the largest MSAU deployments saw 80 Marines deployed to Tripoli to help evacuate the U.S. embassy, the Marine Corps Times reported.
“Our Marine Security Guard Augmentation Units maintain a high state of readiness and can rapidly respond when called upon,” said U.S. Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques said.