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African Lion

African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral US and Moroccan sponsored exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures. Initially started in the 1990s as biennial US European Command (EUCOM) sponsored exercise conducted by US Army personnel in cooperation with the Moroccan Armed Forces, the exercise eventually transitioned to Marine Corps leadership and became an annual event. Following the establishment of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, that command assumed sponsorship of African Lion.

The massive, U.S.-led African Lion exercises in Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal in 2020 were supposed to involve 9,300 troops from eight nations. The troops would use the exercises to improve military readiness and integration, while preparing to combat transregional threats. But there was one threat African Lion organizers weren't prepared for: the coronavirus. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command, stated 10 March 2020 "African Lion has been significantly reduced in scale and scope based on concerns that we all have about the safety of our troops and those of our partners". Some of the U.S. troops who had deployed ahead of the official March 23 start date will be able to finish their tasks, including the academic portion of the drills which had already started. But many African Lion organizers are shifting their focus to the next set of drills in 2021.

In 1998, Moroccan and American leaders joined forces to defeat a simulated enemy on a computerized battlefield. The sophisticated simulation equipment, known as the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation Systems, allowed military leaders to simulate a battle using terrain from any where in the world. A series of networked laptop computers at each station act as a company headquarters in the field.

Soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based US Army Southern European Task Force's (SETAF) 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) and 2nd Moroccan Parachute Infantry Brigade overcame language barriers and operational differences to battle enemy forces during Exercise African Lion '98, a computer assisted exercise held between 1 and 8 December 1998, in Ben Guerir, Morocco. Exercise African Lion was a 173rd Airborne Brigade-led exercise held every 2 years in Morocco.

As U.S. Army Europe's only conventional airborne force, the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate), SETAF's infantry brigade and also known as the Lion Brigade, was tasked with giving its expertise in planning a military operation to leaders of the Moroccan Parachute Brigade. This step-by-step procedure, known as the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), helped the two countries understand each other's doctrine, operating methods, techniques and procedures. The MDMP is the procedure the staff and commander go through to develop an operational plan.

In the Lion Brigade's case, the plan called for a coalition force of SETAF and Moroccan paratroopers to recapture an oil refinery seized by enemy forces, defend it against any counterattacks and assist other allied units in defeating enemy forces. With the help of translators from the 415th Military Intelligence Battalion, an element of the Louisiana Army National Guard, leaders from the 2 units' staffs got down to business. The plan they developed took several days worth of briefings, face-to-face meetings and behind-the-scenes conversations.

The exercise culminated with a 3-hour-long computer-driven battle between the US-Moroccan coalition and enemy forces. Officers worked side-by-side to chart the battle. Enlisted radio transmission operators relayed information in English and French. The buzz of activity in the joint tactical operations center approached that of an actual battle. The scenario was played out on computers from SETAF's deployable Battlefield Simulation Center, which regulated everything from enemy attacks to weather and unit proficiency. They deployed 16 work stations which can simulate all aspects of the battle, from brigade down to the individual soldier. Using computers saves time, money and the number of soldiers needed to run an exercise. The staff's reports and procedures are also the same during a computer-run exercise as they are during an exercise with troops.

Approximately 50 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 (NMCB 1) deployed at the end of February 2005 from its forward-deployed site in Rota, Spain, to Northern Africa to perform humanitarian missions as part of African Lion 2005 Engineering Exercise (AL05 ENGEX). The 3-month bilateral exercise with Morocco was based around a number of Engineering-Related Construction and Humanitarian Civic Assistance projects in the vicinity of Tan Tan, a small town in the Central-Western region of the country. In preparation for the exercise, the Battalion moved 1.1 million pounds of equipment and supplies by ship from Rota to Morocco. The shipment included 20 freight containers and 38 pieces of Civil Engineer Support Equipment. Members of the unit loaded the shipment in Rota for the 36-hour trip to Morocco, where they offloaded and convoyed the supplies and equipment over unimproved roads to the area of Tan Tan approximately 400 kilometers away.

Exercise-related construction projects included the humanitarian civic-assistance project to build a school for local children, and significant infrastructure upgrades on the Capdra training range. Upgrades on the range include installing 2 50-foot steel observation towers, a concrete helicopter pad, small arms bunker, completion of the existing trench system, and improvements to the surrounding roads during the 3-month period. The detail was tasked to complete 5 construction projects in 90 days. The largest project was a Royal Building System (RBS) school building, a type of pre-engineered building using lightweight materials filled with concrete for added strength. The building system connects together like a puzzle to greatly reduce construction time. A mobile concrete facility (batch plant) was contracted to provide the concrete needed and was set up just outside the school compound.

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, teamed up with members of D Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, to simulate open desert warfare during African Lion 05 on 6 April 2005. The location of the exercise, conducted in Tan Tan Morocco, enabled Marines to practice firing missiles and heavy machine guns.

More than 3,700 Moroccans were treated by 37 American military members as part of a humanitarian assistance visit to Morocco coupled with Exercise African Lion 2007 and held from 15 to 30 April 2007. Airmen of the 944th Medical Squadron from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and other active duty and Reserve members of sister services participated in the regularly scheduled, combined US-Moroccan military exercise designed to promote improved interoperability. The team of 37 included members from several specialties including dermatology, optometry, pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine and dental. The group visited 6 sites in 6 days with each site containing Moroccan patients with various medical needs. The Americans and their Moroccan medical counterparts were able to assist 3,746 patients and provided 5,803 prescriptions and 833 pairs of glasses.

More than 55 Marines and sailors from Military Police Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division participated in peace keeping operations training with members of the 7th Battalion, Brigade Infantry Mobile of the Royal Moroccan Army at Tifnit, Morocco as part of Exercise African Lion 2008 between 9 and 29 June 2008. Focusing on a large variety of military police tactics, techniques and procedures, the Marines worked to continue forging and strengthen partnerships with the Moroccan military through shared training that will aid both forces in cooperative efforts to respond to crises and promote stability. A special focus during the training was the emphasis on non-lethal weapons, which the Moroccans had asked for specifically. With a important role in United Nations peacekeeping operations, the non-lethal weapons portion was relevant to Morocco's real-world military operations.

The military police training served as important part in the multi-faceted, bi-lateral training that was conducted throughout Exercise African Lion 08. In addition to the training here, Marines from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines; 4th Marine Logistics Group; 4th Medical Battalion; and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 all worked with their Moroccan counterparts to conduct combined arms, aviation, humanitarian assistance, and logistical support training.

During the field training exercise portion of African Lion 08, the Marines and sailors of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment worked hand-in-hand with their Moroccan counterparts during a variety of small arms, heavy machine gun, mortar, and anti-tank weapons shoots that highlighted the interoperability of the two forces. The Marines and the Moroccans each demonstrated their particular weapons systems and shared tactics, techniques and procedures used in the employment of those systems. The culmination of this shared learning experience came in the form of bi-lateral, combined arms deployment of Moroccan and US weapons systems in a simulated attack.

A detachment of Marines from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 234 traveled to Kenitra, Morocco on 22 May 2009 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 09. Throughout the aviation training exercise, the Marines of VMGR-234 supported African Lion 09 by working with their Moroccan counterparts to conduct fixed-wing aerial refueling, assault support, rapid ground refueling, and classroom instruction both at Kenitra and at other sites throughout the country. The Marines of VMGR-234 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. The Marines and the Moroccans specifically conducted their training to highlight the capabilities that the KC-130s could bring to the battlefield. African Lion 09 marked the third time a detachment from the Fort Worth, Texas-based VMGR-234 had traveled to train with their Moroccan counterparts. Upon completion of the ATX portion of African Lion 09 on 28 May 2009, VMGR-234 was slated to return to Fort Worth. The last elements of VMGR-234 returned to the United States on 25 June 2008.

Also, in an effort to put Moroccan citizens face-to-face with Americans displaying compassion and to relieve human suffering, more than 30 US personnel from various components of all 4 branches of the Department of Defense conducted humanitarian civic action projects in the Guelmim Province as part of Exercise African Lion 2008. The majority of the US personnel were members of the Utah Air National Guard (which was paired with Morocco thought the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program), although the team also had Marine Corps communications specialists, Navy dentists and dental technicians, Louisiana National Guard translators, Air Force Reserve physicians and active duty optometrists. The Americans were also joined by more than 35 Moroccan medical professionals during the bi-lateral training and HCA portions of the exercise.

US and Moroccan forces integrated staffs to compose a combined infantry regiment and worked through simulated scenarios designed to challenge their interoperability in the command post exercise portion of Exercise African Lion 2009. The CPX involved about 50 service members, 25 each from 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, and Morocco's Forces Armee Royale, and they were divided between the unit operations center, response cells, and control tent.

Marines from 4th Marine Division in concert with their Royal Moroccan Army counterparts put the finishing touches on Exercise African Lion 2009 during the final training exercise at Cap Draa, Morocco on 28 May 2009. The ground combat portion of African Lion 09 featured infantry Marines from K Company, L Company, and Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment; a LAR platoon from C Company, 4th LAR Battalion; and a tank platoon from C Company, 4th Tank Battalion. Throughout the 19-day long ground training exercise portion, the Marines worked closely with counterparts from the Royal Moroccan Army in a variety of bi-lateral training evolutions including small-arms and crew-served weapons training, live fire and maneuver ranges, bi-lateral weapons systems familiarization, and the FTX. Throughout the entire 6-week exercise, Marines, sailors and Army National Guard soldiers from a variety of units worked and trained with the Moroccans to cover every aspect of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as providing humanitarian and civic assistance.

Exercise African Lion 2010 was an annually scheduled, joint, combined US-Moroccan exercise. It brought together nearly 1,000 US service members from 16 locations throughout Europe and North America with more than 1,000 members of the Moroccan military. It was the largest exercise within the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility at the time, and was designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nations military tactics, techniques, and procedures. The Exercise was scheduled to begin on 15 May 2010 and end on or around 9 June 2010. All US forces would return to their home bases in the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise. The overall goal of the CPX portion of the exercise was to afford US and Moroccan troops the chance to work together and develop a joint product. The goal was achieved by using the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Tactical Warfare Simulation (MTWS) system, a computerized training tool specific to the Marine Corps.

US Marines and soldiers worked to offload 276 vehicles and pieces of equipment from the USS Arc in preparation for Exercise African Lion 2010 on 9 May 2010. African Lion 10 was a US Africa Command (AFRICOM) sponsored exercise that would 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. Because the exercise, coordinated by US Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF), is sourced mainly by personnel from US Marine Forces Reserve and US Army and Air National Guard units, it offered valuable real-life experience to reserve personnel.

As part of African Lion 10, Marines from 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division would conduct a command post exercise, and various service members from the 4th Marine Division would 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 (VMGR-234), Marine Aircraft Group 41 (MAG-41), and instructors from the Army's 11th Aviation Command would conduct aerial refueling, 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 would provide medical, dental, and veterinarian humanitarian assistance to local residents in and around the community of Taroudant.

Reserve Marine aircrews from Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 234 (VMGR-234), flying KC-130 Hercules aircraft, moved about 300 Marines and sailors of Task Force African Lion from the coastal Moroccan city of Agadir to a training area several hundred miles south on 28 May 2010. The US troops debarked the aircraft in a desolate airfield near Tan Tan, Morocco and headed out to the Cap Draa training area, where they would conduct a variety of training missions with their Moroccan Army counterparts. The movement was part of the second phrase of African Lion 2010, a month-long theater security cooperation exercise conducted annually between the US military and Morocco to further develop joint and combined capabilities. More than a thousand US troops were participating in the exercise. VMGR-234 was otherwise supporting African Lion 10 by conducting aerial refueling flights in support of the Royal Moroccan Air Force. The Squadron had flown more than 10 sorties by 8 June 2010, refueling Moroccan F-5 jet fighters at high altitude. The Moroccan Air Force also has KC-130 aircraft, which they routinely use to refuel their jets. The Moroccan KC-130H aircraft were very similar to the Marine Corps Reserve's KC-130T aircraft, which made training all that much easier

A class of 22 students graduated from the first intelligence staff training course taught by personnel from US Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) during the work-up to a command post exercise (CPX) in Agadir, Morocco on 13 May 2019. The course took place during the early days of Exercise African Lion 2010. Moroccan military students traveled from throughout the country to attend the course, which covered 3 main topics: intelligence preparation for the battlefield or environment, and a system designed to be able to capitalize on mapping and imagery. The Remote Replication System (RSS) analyzes data from imagery and mapping sources. Students also interacted for the first time with tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and were afforded the opportunity to operate the RQ-11 Raven UAS.

During Exercise African Lion 2010, Marines tested a new environmentally-friendly energy system that would enable deployed troops to purify water, light their tents, and power their equipment through solar energy and leverage technology. The test of the ZeroBase Energy ReGenerator, SLMCO water purifier unit, and other equipment was part of the development of the Expeditionary Forward Operating Base program (ExFOB) concept by the USMC. If implemented, the ExFOB concept would significantly reduce troops' reliance on drinking water and generator fuel. The impetus for the ExFOB concept was the desire to reduce the number of convoys that were required to support FOB operations in Afghanistan. These convoys were frequent targets for insurgents. In southern Morocco, the ExFOB team of experts conducted a week-long assessment of their prospective piece of gear. When the ExFOB team returned to their respective offices in Northern Virginia, they would make their recommendations to the Executive Integrated Processing Team, which consisted of high-ranking Marine Corps general officers and senior US government service employees.

US service members taking part in Exercise African Lion 2010 wrapped up their training at the Cap Draa Training Area in Morocco on 9 June 2010 in a final combined arms exercise with the Royal Moroccan Army. More than 1,000 Marines, sailors and US Air and Army national guardsmen participated in Exercise African Lion 10, with the majority of personnel coming from Marine Forces Reserve units throughout the United States. African Lion 10 marked the seventh year in a row that US personnel had come to Morocco for the bi-lateral exercise, which Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF), headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, had the lead on facilitating.

The final exercise of African Lion 10 was a culmination of more than 4 months of planning, mass logistical movements and detailed coordination between U.S. and Moroccan diplomatic and military leadership. In the exercise scenario, several enemy mechanized units had intentionally crossed into Moroccan territory. A joint US and Moroccan task force was formed to repulse the enemy with a combination of air and ground capabilities. These included helicopters, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, mortars, combat engineers and mobile assault platoons.

Exercise African Lion 11 was a US Africa Command (AFRICOM) scheduled, US Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF) conducted, joint and bi-lateral exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States that involved more than 2,000 US service members and approximately 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. African Lion was conducted between 25 April and 18 June 2011. All US forces would return to their home bases in the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise.

Marines of Headquarters Battery, 14th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit from Fort Worth, Texas, assumed command of American forces participating in Phase II of Exercise African Lion 2011 during a ceremony in Agadir, Morocco on 15 May 2011. Phase II began when US Naval Forces Africa, designated as Joint Task Force-Morocco, transferred command to the 14th Marine Regiment, designated as Task Force-African Lion. Task Force-African Lion had the task of directing and overseeing bilateral command and control functions of a regimental level task force during Phase II. Phase II would involve training with Moroccan counterparts in peacekeeping exercises, aerial training, humanitarian operations, command post exercises, intelligence capacity building and field training exercises. The knowledge and training that the Marines of Task Force-African Lion would obtain from these exercises would be enough to satisfy the reservists' 2 week annual training requirement.

Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) conducted the final planning conference for Exercise African Lion 12 at several locations in Agadir, Morocco, to include the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces southern headquarters facilities, between 23 and 27 January 2012. Exercise African Lion is a bilateral, theater security cooperation exercise led by MARFORAF and was conducted annually between the US military and the Kingdom of Morocco to further develop joint and combined capabilities. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) supported the planning process and would support the exercise by developing highly detailed maps of Morocco's southern coast, mountain ranges, and desert landscape.

During 2 weeks of intense training scheduled for mid-April 2012, Task Force African Lion planned to conduct a variety of exercises, which would include: field and aviation training, humanitarian civic assistance, amphibious landings, intelligence capacity building, and command post and peace support operations. African Lion 12 would also be the the fourth year in row that MARFORAF had taken the lead for the exercise. The US and Moroccan armed forces would do everything from combined arms fire and maneuver ranges, aerial refueling and deliveries of supplies, to command post and non-lethal weapons training.

The commander of the 14th Marine Regiment would lead Task Force African Lion for African Lion 12, comprised of more than 1,200 Marines, sailors and soldiers. More than 900 Royal Moroccan soldiers would participate throughout the exercise. Concurrent with the exercise, US military professionals from the Utah Army National Guard, along with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, would provide medical, dental and veterinarian assistance to the local residents in and around Agadir. A UAS demonstration, featuring the RQ-11B Raven UAS, would be part of the Exercise.

The amphibious transport dock landing ship USS New York (LPD 21) began participating and serving as the supporting platform for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during during the commencement of African Lion 12 on 9 April 2012. While the exercise predominantly demonstrates the capabilities of the MEU, New York would play a supporting role by facilitating air and amphibious operations. Helicopters from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced) (VMM-261 [+]) airlifted munitions from the ship's flight deck while pre-staging equipment ashore. In addition, landing craft air cushions from Amphibious Craft Unit 4 (ACU 4) transported MEU assets from the ship's well deck.

Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR-234) began supporting the logistical needs of African Lion 12 by delivering five 88 inch by 108 inch, pallets containing the gear required to establish a command and control center. By 16 April 2012, the Squadron had conducted approximately 24 logistics operations in support of the Exercise, with the majority of operations being the transportation of staff and personnel.

On 11 April 2012, 2 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Marines died and 2 were severely injured when an MV-22 Osprey crashed in a Royal Moroccan military training area southwest of Agadir, Morocco, while participating in bilateral Exercise African Lion. The Marines were part of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (VMM-261). The aircraft and Marines were part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Iwo Jima. The aircraft involved had just delivered 12 Marines to the Moroccan training area. The cause of the crash was later officially determined to have been the result of pilot error.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in conjunction with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) completed joint and bilateral exercise CJCS Exercise African Lion 2012 on 17 April 2012. The exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the US military services served as integrated field training for the ARG/MEU team, prior to arriving at their operational station for deployment 2012. In order to accomplish missions of the 24th MEU, USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), and USS New York (LPD 21) executed a combined total of 38 ship-to-shore movements. This included 24 landing craft air cushion (LCAC) movements and 14 amphibious assault vehicle landings in order to transport the Marines and their equipment. Also, 51 vehicles were moved ashore aboard the LCACs for the Marines to accomplish their mission in the exercise. By the conclusion of African Lion 12, more than 87 bi-lateral training events and demonstrations had been achieved with the Royal Moroccan and US military. In total, more than 345 flight hours had been logged. For both surface and air movements, more than 70 people had been transported with more than 600 items, totaling more than 45,000 pounds between the shore and ships, including food and parts for aircraft, ships and vehicles.

Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF) conducted the final planning conference for Exercise African Lion 13 at the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces southern headquarters facilities in Agadir, Morocco between 29 January and 1 February 2013. African Lion 13 is a US African Command (AFRICOM) sponsored, MARFORAF led exercise that involved various types of training including command post, live-fire and maneuvering, peace-keeping operations, an intelligence capacity building seminar, amphibious operations, aerial refueling/low-level flight training, as well as medical and dental assistance projects.

In preparation for African Lion 13, Joint Task Force Marines and sailors from 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, in cooperation with teams from US Transportation Command, MARFORAF, and II Marine Expeditionary Force, would conducted a large-scale offload of both a Marine prepositioned ship and a commercial shipping vessel at the Port of Agadir, in early April 2013.

In addition, during African Lion 13, the formerly bi-lateral exercise between joint US services and the Kingdom of Morocco Royal Armed Forces would open its doors internationally to military representatives from more than 14 different partner nations. African Lion was already the largest exercise for US African Command on the continent and was growing as of 2013. More than 1,400 US military personnel would arrive in April 2013 to join more than 900 members of the Moroccan Forces Armees Royales (FAR; Royal Armed Forces) in various regions of the Kingdom of Morocco to take part in the annual exercise, designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. Members of Marine Forces Reserve's 4th Medical Battalion and 4th Dental Battalion would team up with the Utah National Guard Medical Command to provide medical, dental, pediatric and optometry care to thousands of Moroccans throughout the exercise.




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