Under a blazing North African sun, US Marines and soldiers worked to offload 276 vehicles and pieces of equipment from the USS Arc in preparation for AFRICAN LION 2010 in Agadir, Morocco.
AFRICAN LION, a US Africa Command-sponsored exercise which commences May 15, will include various types of military training to include a command post exercise, intelligence capacity building, a field training exercise with live-fire, peace operations training, aviation training, medical exchange training, as well as humanitarian civic assistance programs.
“We’ve got a little bit of every [type of gear],” said Warrant Officer One Richard Charest, a mobility officer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273.
Heavy construction equipment, Humvees and eight M-1A1 tanks were among the gear included in the offload. The bulk of the gear will be used for exercise-related construction, Charest said, while the rest will be used for transportation and military-to-military exchanges.
“Our Marines are looking forward to the chance to operate in their military occupational specialties,” he added. “They’ll be working to set up a field mess, field showers and GP medium tents.”
Because the exercise, coordinated by US Marine Forces Africa, is sourced mainly by personnel from US Marine Forces Reserve and US Army and Air National Guard units, it offers valuable real-life experience to reserve personnel, according to Charest.
“My main goal here is to offload the ship in an organized manner and to act as a safety officer,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Moszcienski, a landing support specialist with 2nd Landing Support Platoon, 4th Landing Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group. “We’re working to track the gear as it comes off [the ship], stage it, and ensure it is accessible to each unit.”
Experience and prioritization are the keys to a safe, swift offload, according to Gunnery Sergeant Steven Gagnon, logistics chief with 2nd LSP, 4th LSB, 4th MLG.
“We have 10 Marines who have been here before, and some Marines who are coming straight from school,” Gagnon said of his team of 33 Marines. “The senior Marines have been looking forward to the chance to teach; the junior Marines have a large learning curve.”
In addition to the offload, Gagnon’s team is responsible for staging the gear and providing security for it until the main body arrives to claim it, he said.
The offload did not occur without its challenges. A runaway forklift, flat tires on offloading vehicles belonging to the port, and empty fuel tanks on the Marine’s gear were just some of the snags, Gagnon said. Shipping requirements call for vehicles to be run with low fuel; a faulty gauge can result in a vehicle arriving in port without enough fuel to drive it off the ship.
“You can plan all you want,” he said, “and have the plan incorporated into your mission, but you’re always going to have change. You just have to work around it to get the mission accomplished.”
Elements of the 1175th Transportation Company from the Tennessee Army National Guard were also on hand to assist with the offload.
Marines from 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division will conduct a command post exercise, and various service members from the 4th Marine Division will conduct bi-lateral training at the unit level, weapons qualification training and peace operations training with units from the Royal Moroccan armed forces. Marines from the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234, Marine Aircraft Group 41, and instructors from the Army 11th Tactical Air Command will conduct aerial refuelling, low-level flight training and provide classes on helicopter operations with their counterparts in the Royal Moroccan air force.
Concurrent with the exercise, US military professionals from the Utah Air National Guard will provide medical, dental and veterinarian humanitarian assistance to local residents in and around the community of Taroudant.
AFRICAN LION 2010 is an annually scheduled, joint, combined US-Moroccan exercise. It brings together nearly 1000 US service members from 16 locations throughout Europe and North America with more than 1000 members of the Moroccan military. It is the largest exercise within the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility, and is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s military tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise is scheduled to end on or around June 9. All US forces will return to their home bases in the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise.
Source: US Marine Forces Africa