Three Marine Corps aviation units have joined more than 10,000 U.S. troops mobilized to Eastern Europe and Germany in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
The Marines already had been on the continent as part of NATO’s Cold Response exercise in Norway, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Military Times. Now, 200 members of Marine Air Control Unit 28, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, are in Lithuania.
At the same time, 10 F/A-18 Hornets and some C-130 Hercules transport planes from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, will head to an as-yet-undetermined location, Kirby added, with another 200 personnel.
That brings the number of U.S. troops deployed in response to the war in Ukraine to more than 12,000. To date, the vast majority of troops have been Army and Air Force personnel, though the Navy threw its hat in the ring by sending six EA-18G Growlers to Germany, Kirby announced Monday.
Since the beginning of February, U.S. troops have been building up a presence along NATO’s eastern front and in Germany. The Pentagon started with a commitment of U.S. 7,000 troops mobilizing to individual countries, then later committed another 7,000 as part of the NATO Response Force, though not every one of that group has been mobilized.
“It is about options, it’s not about a number goal,” Kirby said. “It’s about capabilities and making sure that we’ve got the right capabilities.”
The Marines will be deployed individually, Kirby said, as the U.S.-led NATO Response Force group is based in Poland.