In response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in Libya, a US Marine’s FAST (Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team) Company was deployed. It is believed the team was sent first to Tripoli, not Benghazi.
As US military officials announced the deployment of FAST, they further stated that no further action was being taken to deploy any additional troops, ships or aircraft as a result of the attack. A second FAST team was being held in Spain on stand-by awaiting further orders. Some speculated the Pentagon would deploy Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) to prepare for a broader, more pro-active measure.
US embassies generally have a resident contingent of Marine security guards in countries that are unstable and/or less secure. Their primary role is to provide protection for classified national security documents. The secondary role of this elite team started in 1948 to provide protection to US citizens, as well as US government property, in the event of an emergency.
A Closer Look at FAST
The US Marine’s FAST team was first established in 1987 in response to a growing need for quick response time when providing protection to US citizens abroad. Since that time, FAST has been involved in a number of missions. They were sent to Panama to support Operation Just Cause in 1989, to Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 when the US embassies were bombed and to Port of Aden, Yemen in 2000 when the USS Cole was bombed. Currently, FAST reinforces security at US embassies in Liberia, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each US Marine FAST company maintains a constant, ready to deploy status in response to overseas security. They are specially equipped and trained in a number of high-end weaponry and technology. Members of this elite operational team undergo intense training including Security Guard Anti-Terrorism Training, High Risk Personnel Training, Close Quarter Battle, Designated Marksmanship and door-breaching tactics.
Marine Expeditionary Units
The US continues to maintain three forward-deployed Marine Expeditionary Units on ships throughout the world for quick response to any unforeseen situations which require their immediate intervention. These units are further assisted by sailors who are also dispatched with the Marines along with tanks, light armored vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles and light artillery. All can be transported with additional support from on-board Harrier tactical fighters and attack helicopters. Each ship is manned by a full battalion for logistics combat support under the command of a colonel, who has a fully integrated staff.
MEUs generally respond to situations within 100 miles of a shoreline but remain flexible which was exhibited after the September 11, 2001 attack on the US when forces were sent several miles into Afghanistan. During this and other responses, as the ships move into position, it is most likely the MEU team (and sailors in support of the team) perform drills to prepare themselves to safely evacuate US Department of State personnel and their families along with members of any other embassies that are threatened.
When the situation necessitates, the MEU will quickly insert their troops via air and sea to barricade the embassy and other noted sites and occupy them temporarily while they prepare to safely evacuate US citizens and other identified personnel. Under ideal situations, the MEUs are able to complete their mission without any hostility.
As a result of the consulate bombing in Libya which killed four US citizens and the US Ambassador to Libya (Chris Stevens), the US Marine’s FAST Company will no doubt employ many of their specialized tactics and strategies to secure the area.