Here's how US Marines evacuate an American Embassy

The U.S. Marine Corps has the unique mission of securing embassies worldwide. Marines are stationed in embassies as security, they’re sent as reinforcements for diplomatic missions that find themselves in trouble, and they get the first call if an embassy gets evacuation orders. They even have a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force based in Spain that specializes in embassy evacuations and other missions in Africa.

Here’s what the Marines do when an American ambassador decides it’s not safe to stay in an embassy.

1. Marines are generally alerted a few days ahead that an embassy evacuation is likely and stage in forward bases. Once the call comes in, they’re able to quickly move into transports.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation Tripoli

A quick reaction force with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepares to depart Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Photo: US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Maida Kalic

2. Which base is used depends on diplomatic clearances, available equipment, and local security situations. The Marines will typically stage in the most secure place that will allow them to move to the embassy as quickly as possible.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation Tripoli

Ospreys with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepare to take off in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, July 26, 2014. Photo: US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Maida Kalic

3. Once they arrive at the embassy, the Marines establish communications with their headquarters and begin securing the area.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

Marines establish communications during an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

4. The Marines establish a defensive perimeter for the embassy personnel to move within.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation Tirana

Marines secure the exit route for civilian personnel inside the U.S. Embassy housing compound in Tirana, Albania, on March 15, 1997. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Siegel

5. Besides the Marines on the ground, air and naval assets may be used to ensure the security of the evacuation.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

A U.S. Marine provides security during an embassy evacuation exercise while an AV-8B Harrier flies overhead. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

5. Marines can track the civilians they are evacuating in a few ways. When available, barcodes can allow the Marines to quickly track confirmed passengers, rather than checking the I.D. cards and passports at each stage.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

A Marine tags a confirmed role player while conducting an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

6. Once Marines have confirmed the personnel they will be evacuating, they can begin moving those people to the transports.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation South Sudan

Marines guide U.S. citizens down the flight line in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014. Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

Role players are led by a Marine into a CH-53E Super Stallion during an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

7. A Marine will track the passengers entering the transport against a manifest to ensure that no personnel are left behind.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation South Sudan

A Marine accounts for passengers on a manifest in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014. Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

8. The task force will remain on the ground as the transports depart, keeping the area secure until all are ferried out.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

Marines brace themselves against rotor wash from a CH-53E Super Stallion during an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

Marines provide security during an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

9. Once the civilians have been removed from the embassy, the Marines will follow them out.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation exercise

Marines sit in a CH-53E Super Stallion after conducting an embassy evacuation exercise. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

10. The transports will bring everyone to a secure area where the Marines will get final accountability of both the civilians and their own forces.

USMC Marine Corps Embassy Evacuation South Sudan

Master Sgt. Robert Gupton, a Marine with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, accounts for passengers on a manifest at Entebbe, Uganda, after safely evacuating them from the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 3, 2014. Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

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