San Diego Union-Tribune

October 5, 2001

Marine Corps assembles anti-terrorism unit


WASHINGTON -- Reacting to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Marine Corps yesterday announced the formation of a new anti-terrorism unit that will be able to dispatch specialized security and incident-response units nationally within hours.

The new unit will combine the two Marine security battalions that guard embassies and other U.S. installations around the world and the Chemical,
Biological Incident Response Force with elements of an infantry battalion. The unit will be expanded by the formation of another Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team, or FAST, company.

It will be designated the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and will be commanded by Brig. Gen. Douglas V. O'Dell, a Marine Reservist now on full-time active duty.

The East Coast-based unit will have about 5,800 Marines and sailors when fully manned and will be able to respond to threats or actual attacks by terrorists in less than eight hours, O'Dell said.

The intent of the new brigade is to "unify and synergize the existing capabilities into a single command," he said.

To fill out the brigade and meet other demands, the Corps will request to increase its personnel strength by 2,400 Marines, to about 177,000, O'Dell said.

None of the brigade's units will be based on the West Coast under current plans, he said.

The brigade will bring "vigilance with an attitude, with Marine Corps muscle to back it up," O'Dell said.

The Marines are moving forward with plans for the anti-terrorism unit even though they do not have specific approval from Defense Secretary Donald

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James L. Jones, has briefed Rumsfeld and Navy Secretary Gordon England. "Both think highly of the concept," O'Dell said.

An increase in the Marines' authorized total personnel would have to be approved by England, Rumsfeld and Congress.

The initial added cost of the new brigade is about $21 million, which is likely to increase, O'Dell said.

The elements of the anti-terrorism brigade are:

The Marine Corps Security Forces Battalion, with headquarters in Norfolk, Va. Its specially trained and equipped infantrymen provide long-term or
contingency protection to U.S. installations worldwide. It has two FAST companies, which deploy units in response to crises, such as the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen.

The Marine Security Guard Battalion, headquartered at Quantico, Va., which provides security detachments to embassies and other diplomatic missions worldwide.

The Incident Response Force, located on the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, 20 miles from the capital. It was formed after the 1995 terrorist chemical agent attack on the To kyo subway. Its aim is to provide a rapid reacting team that can provide security and treat casualties from attacks by chemical, biological or low-level radiological agents.

The infantry unit joining the new brigade, the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., has a deep emotional link to the
war on terrorism, O'Dell noted. That unit occupied a building in Beirut, Lebanon, that was destroyed Oct. 23, 1983, by a suicide truck bomber, killing 241 Americans.

O'Dell said the brigade will be activated Monday at Camp Lejeune at about 80 percent of planned strength. A third FAST company could be formed within a year, he said.