Photo Information

A truck full of Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and Moroccan soldiers wait for a nearby demolition range to be completed during exercise African Lion, May 15, 2015. The Moroccan and U.S. forces had been training on weapons systems all day and were on their way back to the Moroccan camp to spend time bonding and learning about one another. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jared N. Gehmann

Moroccans, 25th Marines exchange, familiarize small arms weapons systems

28 May 2015 | Staff Sgt. Jared N. Gehmann Marine Corps Forces Reserves

About 200 Moroccan infantrymen trained on small arms weapons with three companies of U.S. Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, during Exercise African Lion 15 in Tan Tan, Morocco, May 15-17.

The training not only enhanced the skills of both countries’ forces but also built teamwork and integration between the two nations.

“We’ve come together with one of our oldest allies here, the Moroccan forces,” said Capt. Dale Hairston, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, native and commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. “Their soldiers and our soldiers get together and they conduct bilateral training with the focus not just being on training, but on cooperation and the interoperability of our two nations coming together and fighting side by side.”

During the three-day weapons lanes event, the combined force of Moroccans and Marines trained on marksmanship skills and tactics with AK-47 assault rifles, M16 A2 rifles, M4 rifles, M240B Machine guns, M203 grenade launchers, mortars, .50-caliber sniper rifles, and anti-aircraft guns.

During the exercise, the combined forces continually exchanged weapons throughout the day and coached each other on the weapons they were most familiar with.

“This was an opportunity for Marines to fire weapons that are not American and that they may never have the opportunity to fire ever again, same with the Moroccans, and that just adds to the experience because it’s memorable,” said Hairston.

The training was not only beneficial to the Marines but also to the Moroccans who were highly alert and engaged.

“This training has been very fulfilling for me and my men,” said an infantry company commander assigned to Morocco’s 6th Infantry Brigade.

“We enjoyed teaching and learning from the Americans. My men were very involved in all the instruction and I feel they are now comfortable using the American weapons we have been learning about,” he said.

According to Hairston, the training is all in preparation for a final joint-combined assault exercise that will be completed at the end of Exercise African Lion 15 and will include the use of nearly every weapon system used throughout the last few days.

“Later on we are going to do a big exercise where we launch all of our weapons together,” said Hairston. “An exercise like this is absolutely important. It’s an opportunity for our nations to fight side-by-side and just to prove to each other that we can actually do it. It helps our militaries understand that if they ever get into a situation where they need support, there’s somebody who is going to come back them up.”

U.S. and Moroccan armed forces and a variety of representatives from eight African and European countries have been taking part in Exercise African Lion 15, a joint and combined exercise, in May 2015. The exercise involves various types of training, including a combined joint task force command post exercise linked with an intelligence capacity building workshop, a field training exercise, an aviation training exercise, stability operations exercise, and a humanitarian/civic assistance event.

This exercise creates a foundation for inter-military cooperation in the future. AL15 also improves interoperability between nations and builds relationships with key strategic partners within the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.