The Army now has a rapid response force in East Africa in case of another terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the Army’ deputy director of strategy, plans and policy said Thursday.
During a media roundtable at the Pentagon, Army Brig. Gen. Kimberly Field said the response team was established in April in Djibouti with 129 troops from the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kansas.
“They are a response force specifically trained and ready to respond to a crisis such as [Benghazi … which we didn’t have before,” Gen. Field said. “They’re ready to get where they need to be.”
Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta ordered the team be established after U.S. and Libyan forces were unable to stop a terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department aide Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the attack.
“It really was a directive from the [defense secretary] to look forward, look at these areas that might have a Benghazi-like situation, it could happen again, and to pre-position forces to do that, address that,” Gen. Field said. “They train and they stay ready to be able to respond to those crises.”
The rapid response team falls under a new Army initiative called the Regional Alignment of Forces, in which units are aligned with different regions of the world to build cultural and language proficiency before deployments focused on training and advising host-nation countries.
By the end of 2013, about 1,800 soldiers will have deployed in teams of various size and at various times to as many as 34 African countries.
Next year, about 4,000 soldiers will deploy through Africa in different groups and at various times, Gen. Field said.