Officials said 1,000 U.S. soldiers as well as a similar number of
Moroccan troops would participate in African Lion. They said the U.S.
troops, accompanied by M1A1 main battle tanks and Humvee combat vehicles,
arrived from 16 locations throughout Europe and North America.
The United States has been represented by the Marine Corps, including
officers who have participated in previous exercises with Morocco. Officials
said both countries have contributed ground and air platforms for
counter-insurgency, close-air support and refueling operations.
"We have 10 Marines who have been here before, and some Marines who are
coming straight from school," Gunnery Sgt. Steven Gagnon, a Marine logistics
chief, said. "The senior Marines have been looking forward to the chance to
teach; the junior Marines have a large learning curve."
Morocco has been deemed a leading U.S. ally in North Africa. Officials
said the administration of President Barack Obama has pledged to triple U.S.
military aid to the kingdom to nearly $11 million in 2011.
The headquarters of African Lion was established in the Moroccan city of
Agadir. Agadir contains a port used by U.S. Navy ships that have brought
MBTs, combat vehicles and heavy construction equipment for the exercise.
"We've got a little bit of every [type of gear]," Richard Charest, a
mobility officer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, said.
U.S. Marine units have been assigned to conduct joint operations with
the Moroccan military. They included a command post exercise, peacekeeping
operations, low-level flight training and air refueling. Some of the
training, particularly in helicopter operations, was scheduled to take place
in the classroom.
At the same time, the Utah Air National Guard was preparing to provide
medical and veterinarian services to Moroccans in rural areas. Officials
said the assistance would take place around Taroudant.
"All U.S. forces will return to their home bases in the United States
and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise," Africom said.