Photo Information

Marines assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment launch a rocket from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System here during their Mission Rehearsal Exercise for African Lion 2013. The artillerymen and other troops with 14th Marines performed various live-fire battle drills before the unit deploys to AL-13 in Morocco this spring. This will be the first time the unit will demonstrate both HIMARS and M777 Howitzer capabilities for their Moroccan partners. African Lion is an annual multinational exercise executed under the supervision of Marine Forces Africa Command. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ray Lewis/Released)

Photo by Sgt. Ray Lewis

Army welcomes 14th Marines’ Howitzers and HIMARS to Fort Sill

14 Feb 2013 | Sgt. Ray Lewis

Marines assigned to the 14th Marine Regiment needed a place to conduct a live-fire rehearsal to prepare for African Lion 2013, a multinational exercise in Morocco this April. Some Marines started their drill weekend on a bus in Fort Worth, Texas, while others were flown in from Buckley, AFB, Colo., on KC-130s.  They all converged on Fort Sill, Okla., and made a lot of noise. 

Quite a lot of work goes into building the backbone and architecture that supports the exercise, said Col. Roger A. Garay, commanding officer of the 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

“We wouldn’t be able to pull off the preparation required for African Lion without having access to joint bases like the Army base here at Fort Sill,” Garay said. “They have the expansive range network that helps us to replicate the great distances that we are going to have to command and control in African Lion in Morocco.” 

Fort Sill is a 95,000-acre artillery and missile base. The installation also includes Henry Post Army Airfield, a 5,001 foot-long runway, which is ideal for transporting troops back and forth via KC-130 Hercules aircraft, he said.

“They have an airfield here that enables us to work with the wing; to fly a unit from Aurora, Colo., down to Fort Sill, land right here at the base, drop off, go right out to the field, get back on the plane and then fly back up to the airbase,” Garay said. “ A lot of other service installations were involved getting this exercise put together so that we could get the ‘warm start’ in Morocco.”

The Marines used this unique opportunity to increase their proficiency on the M777 Howitzer and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. This was the first time the artillerymen utilized both weapon systems simultaneously in a mission rehearsal exercise. 

“We want to test the combination of the 777’s and the HIMARS, which is a capability that we haven’t seen in the past,” said Sgt. Maj. Ryan C. Willhite, battalion sergeant major for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines. “This is the rehearsal to prepare the Marines for their mission in Morocco and to show our capability and the precision of both weapons systems.”

The training was a chance for HIMARS and traditional artillery Marines to strengthen their unit cohesion, esprit de corps and become better warriors by carrying out their war-fighting mission, he said.

“Any type of training that we can do before deployment that can keep us  mission-ready is always very valuable to me,” said Cpl. Cody R. Richardson, a HIMARS crewman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines.

The 14th Marine Regiment will contribute about 600 of the 1,455 personnel who will participate in African Lion.  Air, ground and Navy medical personnel from all over the United States, Europe and Africa will also be working in support of African Lion throughout the month of April.

 "The Utah National Guard will provide humanitarian civil assistance,” Garay said. “National Guard units throughout the United States are paired with nations around the world, and Utah National Guard is paired with Morocco, so they have a long-standing relationship.  As a result of that, they are a big player in this and provide a lot of continuity as a lot of Marine units come and go.” 

In addition, the Maritime Prepositioning Force, or MPF, will also participate this year. The program has been employed to support Marine Corps equipment requirements for combat and exercise-needs, such as for exercise African Lion.
 “MPF is a national, strategic asset that can be readily deployed to any region of the world, disembark, be used for training, or for contingency operations and then re-embark on the back end,” Garay said. 
The Marines see their upcoming deployment to Morocco as an opportunity to enrich their relationship with their overseas allies. It will be a joint-training event that will include several different, disparate training exercises within one exercise, Garay said.     
“The evolution will include a field-training exercise, humanitarian and civil affairs efforts, and partner building that enables both sides to work with each other to develop better capabilities, and intelligence building capacity workshops that enable our intelligence community to work with theirs,” he said. “It improves our inter-operations both in personnel, systems and equipment.”
The Marines will also work with Moroccans to do peace-support operations such as riot control to improve their ability to manage complex events involving civilian population in times of internal crisis.
AL-13 is a U.S. African Command-sponsored, MFA-led exercise that involves various types of training that will also include command post, live-fire and maneuver training, amphibious operations, as well as aerial refueling/low-level flight training. Formerly a bi-lateral exercise between joint U.S. services and the Kingdom of Morocco Royal Armed Forces, African Lion is opening its doors internationally to military representatives from more than 14 different partner nations in 2013.