MOROCCO -- Marines and Sailors of Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, landed on the shores of the Kingdom of Morocco, April 10, to participate in Exercise African Lion 12.
Alpha Company discussed Marine infantry weapon systems, amphibious assaults, and American culture with their Moroccan counterparts. The Moroccans don’t have Assault Amphibious Vehicles so they work primarily with fast boats,” said 1st Lt. Alexander George, Alpha Company’s executive officer. “These kinds of assaults are what they’d like to do, so this training is perfect for them.” Alpha Company is designed specifically for amphibious assaults and owns all the BLT’s AAVs, which allow them to tactically move from ship to shore and engage enemy positions, if necessary. Often, an amphibious assault resembles infantry squad maneuvers, but with vehicles. Marines and Moroccans shared the tight quarters of Alpha Company’s AAVs and stormed the beaches together during every amphibious assault drill; it was a joint exercise from the start. Executing amphibious landings alongside the Moroccans showed them what they could be capable of, said George. Morocco has a diverse culture; the Moroccans speak Arabic but also French, Spanish and English, among others. The Marines found that many Moroccan’s English is limited but despite the language barrier, the Moroccans embraced their warrior brethren as soon as the Marines hit the shore and spent a good portion of the early part of training taking pictures with Marines and Sailors. Coming to America The exercise also included taking the Moroccans to the heart of America – or at least the next closest thing. The Royal Moroccan Soldiers hitched rides on AAVs to the amphibious ship USS New York, parked more than a mile off the coast. The Moroccans were very excited to board the ship. Many of them expressed their appreciation of Americans and Western culture, especially classic icons like Michael Jordan. They broke into smaller groups and Marine noncommissioned officers guided them throughout the ship, showing them the gym, living spaces, mess hall, flight deck, and bow. Throughout the trip, the Moroccans quizzed the Marines on various aspects of Western popular culture, especially sports and music. “I spoke to one guy who said he always loved America but now he finally got to meet one and come onto their ship,” said Cpl. Robert A. Dahlhausen, an Arabic cryptologic linguist who served as an interpreter for the tour. “I talked to a lot of them, and they said the tour was great. It was big, the food was good, and everything was nice considering we live on a ship.” In the mess hall, Marines and Moroccans discussed differences in local cuisine. Falafel, couscous and kufta are staples of the Moroccan diet, but the Moroccans accepted the full American tour and filled up on burgers, chicken fingers and fries – what most would consider typical American fare – and said they loved it. “They love American culture and love the opportunity to meet Americans and train with us,” said Dahlhausen. Adapting Tactics Back on shore, a group of Moroccan Soldiers was selected to train with Alpha Company’s Marines, and they spent a lot of time focused on small-unit tactics for an amphibious landing. The beach assault gave them an opportunity to try a different tactical approach to a shared threat. They paired into different AAVs, hit the water, and then turned around to assault the beach – Marines and Moroccans storming ashore together. “The Moroccans looked good out there,” said Capt. Robert May, Alpha Company commanding officer. “The Marines looked good too. It was a successful beach landing with our two forces working together.” The Marines and Sailors of the 24th MEU and Soldiers of the Royal Moroccan Army shared training tactics and cultures, but most importantly, they shared experiences. Both militaries learned important aspects about each other’s military that will undoubtedly benefit both Americans and Moroccans for future operations in any clime and place. Exercise African Lion 12 is scheduled through the middle of April. U.S. forces involved in the exercise include Marines and Sailors from the 24th MEU and the 14th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit based out of Fort Worth, Texas, and Soldiers from the Utah National Guard.