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Thursday, May 13, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Morocco, U.S. Marines conduct major exercise

CAIRO — Morocco and the United States have completed preparations for a major military exercise.


The two militaries were deploying in several locations in Morocco for African Lion-2010. The annual exercise, scheduled to begin on May 15 and last through June 9, would include training in such skills as live fire, aviation training, intelligence and command and control, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It is the largest exercise within the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, and is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures," Africom said on May 10.

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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.

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