Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stand watch aboard the amphibious transport dock San Antonio on July 27. The MEU is forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility as a crisis-response force.
In the run-up to the U.S. military and its allies bombing key targets in Libya in 2011, Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit floated off the coast on Navy ships, waiting for orders. It didn’t take long for them to come.
Four of the six AV-8B Harrier jets with the force, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., were among the first aircraft to launch early March 19, 2011, as U.S. and other allied aircraft joined to bomb Libyan government forces as they advanced on the city of Benghazi. Three days later, the Marines launched one of the most high-profile missions of the campaign: a daring air rescue of an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pilot who ejected over Libya before his jet crashed.
The mission is indicative of the kind of involvement top Marine officers highlight as the U.S. prepares for military intervention. It comes into play now as the White House and Pentagon set their sights on Syria, where the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians has raised the prospect of a U.S. military strike in coming days. It is unlikely the U.S. will send in ground forces, but an air campaign would raise the possibility of aircraft crashing. If that occurs, a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, or TRAP, mission, is a one possibility to rescue surviving U.S. personnel.