KENITRA AIR BASE, Morocco — Exercise African Lion 2018 concludes as approximately 900 U.S. service members prepare to redeploy out of the Kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia.
The exercise involved various types of training across the Moroccan coastline, including an Aviation Training Exercise supported by Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, and Soldiers from the 5th Quartermaster and the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“Ensuring familiarity with integration of operations and progressing mutual national interests is key to our worldwide capabilities and their effectiveness,” said Capt. Josh Kelsey, 37th Airlift Squadron pilot and African Lion 2018 deputy mission commander. “We’re working through the mechanics of integrating all of our operations so that if the time comes, we stand united against the threat.”
Throughout the two-week performance, service members conducted low-level mountain flying, aeromedical evacuation training, combat off-load and on-loads, 81 joint-personnel drops, 21 low-cost/low-altitude parachute drops, 19 dirt landings, 18 free-fall parabundle drops, and 12 emergency aircraft egress landings.
The team took on U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa’s first drop of the newly updated Joint Precision Airdrop System using an attached Modular Autonomous Guidance Unit to GPS guide its cargo directly onto its target.
Aircrew dropped six bundles from a high altitude and all landed safely within meters of the desired target. This demonstrated the accuracy of the new system and a significant proof of concept for both the Army and the Air Force.
Additionally, this was also the first time the 37th AS routinely landed on a freshly surveyed, completely bare, unimproved dirt field.
“It just showed the capability of our Wing to start from scratch on a dirt field, survey, determine suitability, and land a C-130J there,” said Capt. Laura K. Martineau, 37th AS pilot and African Lion 2018 mission commander.
Additionally, the Atlas Mountains presented the 37th AS pilots with some great low-level performance challenges, Martineau explained. The higher the pressure altitude, the more difficult it is to climb and crossover ridge lines.
“Our training prepares us to ingress into a joint forcible entry-type situation and drop a considerable amount of personnel at once,” Martineau continued. “The Moroccans have also been observing procedures in-flight; it’s been incredible training for everyone involved.”
In light of today’s political and security environment, it is more important than ever to collaborate effectively and promote mutual understanding of international security.
By working in sync for the past two weeks, the U.S. military and Moroccan Royal Armed Forces strengthened interoperability and further developed tactics, techniques, and procedures of participating nations to counter violent extremist organizations.
“When we have competent partners ready to aid in maintaining all of our freedoms, posturing against today’s security threats becomes exponentially easier,” Kelsey said. “It’s about building partnership capacity with cooperative nations.”
The U.S. Department of Defense recognizes Morocco’s role as a strong and stable partner in North Africa and their contributions to the counter-ISIL mission.
In this year’s iteration of African Lion, countries included Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, and U.K. in addition to the U.S. and Morocco.
Through our African Lion partnership, the DoD looks to support Morocco’s efforts to modernize their forces and defeat violent extremist organizations’ attempts to gain influence in Morocco.
“We’re making sure we are building relationships that last beyond our current stay here,” Kelsey said. “We’re laying down the groundwork for efforts to come.”