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Marine, Moroccan 'hurcs' come together for African Lion exercise

US Marine Corps News

5/25/2009 By Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis, Marine Forces Africa

KENITRA, Morocco — A detachment of Marines from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 has traveled here May 22 to conduct bi-lateral training with their counterparts in the Royal Moroccan Air Force during the aviation-training portion of the annual exercise AFRICAN LION.

Throughout the aviation training exercise, the Marines of VMGR-234 have supported AFRICAN LION by working with their Moroccan counterparts to conduct fixed-wing aerial refueling, assault support, rapid ground refueling, and classroom instruction both here and in sites throughout the country.

Lt. Col. William “Buddy” Smith, AFRICAN LION deputy task-force commander and Tucson, Ariz., native, said the ATX portion of the AFRICAN LION exercise serves as the important aviation piece of the limited Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) of the exercise.

“[The ATX] is important because it allows us to demonstrate the capability and flexibility of the MAGTF,” Smith said. “It also provides us with a great opportunity for bi-lateral training.”

Since their arrival, the Marines of VMGR-234 have worked closely with the Royal Moroccan Air Force during numerous fixed-wing aerial refueling missions, providing Moroccan F-5 pilots with a chance to hone their in-flight refueling skills.

In addition to supporting the F-5s, Lt. Col. Doug “Stumpy” Strumpf, detachment commander and VMGR-234 executive officer, said the squadron has been training with Moroccan C-130 pilots, aircrew and mechanics throughout the training exercise.

“Every crew position has a similar counterpart on the Moroccan Air Force side,” Strumpf said. “So, we have a great chance here to work with each other—to familiarize each other with our tactics, techniques and procedures—and it is a benefit to both our organizations.”

As part of the bi-lateral spirit of the exercise, Strumpf said the Marines and the Moroccans have been conducting their training to highlight the capabilities that their KC-130s bring to the battlefield.

Staff Sgt. Brendan Johnson, VMGR-234 loadmaster and Colchester, Vt., native, said the Marines are focusing on training evolutions like aerial refueling and rapid ground refueling because they give commanders on the ground unique support and capability.

“The focus is on the seamless integration of air and ground assets to support the bilateral training that is taking place [here],” Johnson said. “But it’s also a chance for our Marines to stay current in some of the missions we don’t normally get the chance to do such as rapid ground refueling.”

This year’s exercise marks the third time a detachment from the Ft. Worth, Texas-based VMGR-234 has traveled here to train with their Moroccan counterparts.

Marine Forces Africa Joint Exercise Planner and AFRICAN LION Action Officer Maj. Nebyu Yonas, a Dallas native, said the work the Marines have done with the Royal Moroccan Air Force C-130 community over the years has benefited both nations’ services as they perfect their in-flight refueling capabilities.

“Through this training, we have been able to work closely with our Moroccan partners as they develop, enhance and maintain their refueling capabilities,” Yonas said.

Upon completion of the ATX portion of AFRICAN LION on May 28, VMGR-234 is slated to return to Ft. Worth, although the relationships they’ve built over the years will continue on after the exercise has finished.

“[The Marine Corps C-130 community] is small and we build strong bonds and friendships,” Strumpf said. “The relationships we have established throughout our time here have given way to those same strong friendships, and this truly is a great chance to build on a strong and lasting friendship between our two countries.”

AFRICAN LION is an annually scheduled, combined U.S.—Moroccan exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise is scheduled to run until June 4.

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