Marines and other service members deployed to Spain and Italy as part of an Africa crisis response task force may start to come home this month after the unit got stuck in limbo due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that there is an anticipation of “the redeployment of the current rotation and the deployment of the next rotation” to be complete in early June.
Rankine-Galloway said there will be “phased deployments” and redeployments in May.
Marine Forces Europe and Africa said it remains “flexible in light of the dynamic global public health situation.”
Spain and Italy are two of the hardest hit countries during the ongoing pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, as of May 8 Spain has 221,447 COVID-19 cases and 26,070 deaths.
Italy has 215,858 COVID-19 cases and 29,958 deaths, while the U.K. registered 206,719 cases and 30,615 deaths, according to WHO dats.
“We are working closely with the relevant medical agencies military organizations to ensure that we are able to carry out these movements in a manner that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 exposure to our Spanish and Italian allies, stateside communities and our Marines,” Rankine-Galloway said.
Rankine-Galloway said he would not speculate on dates the movement of forces would occur, “but we are working diligently to get our deployed forces back home in a safe manner.”
Upon return to the U.S. and respective duty stations service members with the Marine Africa task force will begin 14 days of restricted movement in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rankine-Galloway explained.
Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response 20.1 deployed to Spain and Italy in Sept. 2019 and got stuck in limbo after their return date was delayed due to COVID-19 concerns and a Defense Department travel ban.
The Africa crisis response task force continues to train conducting “local field exercises, live-fire weapons ranges and non-lethal weapons training,” Rankine-Galloway said.
The crisis response unit is “postured to respond to a broad range of military operations in the U.S. Africa Command region, including U.S. Embassy reinforcement, fixed-site security, non-combatant evacuation operations" among other missions, Rankine-Galloway explained.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.