USAFE-AFAFRICA wraps up exercise in Morocco

by 1st Lt. Michelle Fletcher
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A C-130J Super Hercules prepares to conduct a dirt landing during Exercise African Lion 18, April 25, near Kenitra Air Base, Morocco. Approximately 900 U.S. reserve and active Soliders, Sailors, Marines and Airmen worked with RMAF in African Lion throughout the country of Morocco. 
Photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton

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.

Loadmasters from the 37th Airlift Squadron toss Meals Ready to Eat packages to U.S. service members out of a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise African Lion 18, April 25 above Tifnit Beach, Morocco. The U.S. Africa Command exercise led by U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa included military training in Combined Joint Task Force command-post activities and counter violent-extremist organization training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton

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.”

An 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial delivery supervisor and Royal Moroccan Army Brigade d’intervention Parachutiste loadmasters assemble a Meals Ready to Eat bundle during Exercise African Lion 18, April 23 at Kenitra Air Base, Morocco. The MREs were dropped to U.S. Marines residing on Tifnit Beach for the annually-scheduled, combined exercise. Morocco is a strong partner in counterterrorism efforts, a major non-NATO ally, and a pivotal player in Middle Eastern and North African issues. 
Photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton

Ramstein Air Base Airmen practice communicating rescue procedures with 37th Airlift Squadron aircrew above in a C-130J Super Hercules during a Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training, 18, April 25 near Kenitra Air Base, Morocco. The SERE training was held during Exercise African Lion 18 where Royal Moroccan Armed Forces service members observed and trained with the U.S. to support interoperability of forces while enhancing professional relationships.Photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton