TIFNIT, Morocco – About 36 military policemen from Military Police Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division, participated in non-lethal weapons training and weapons familiarization fires May 5-6 with about 30 members of the Moroccan 8th, 10th and 11th Battalion Brigade Infantry Mobile of the Royal Moroccan Army here as part of Exercise AFRICAN LION 2009, which began April 28 and is scheduled to conclude June 4.
The non-lethal weapons training and weapons familiarization fires are a part of the peacekeeping operations training package that is being conducted during AFRICAN LION. The training package also includes mounted and dismounted patrols, vehicle and personnel searches, establishing control points, and hand-to-hand combat training, which is scheduled later in the week.
“We are building better relations with the Moroccan forces,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Botty, 1st platoon commander, MP Detachment, MP Company, HQBN, 4th MarDiv. “We are learning how to work with a foreign country. If we were ever ordered to a peacekeeping mission somewhere (worldwide), we need to know how to join forces and work together.”
The peacekeeping operations training between U.S. forces and the Moroccan military is an excellent opportunity for the MP Marines to train and work with foreign militaries, according to Botty. The exercise provides the U.S. an opportunity to share tactics, techniques, and procedures and, in turn, promotes interoperability between U.S. and Moroccan forces.
“It’s good to know that we can go into another country and trust the gun on our left and our right because we’ve worked with them before,” said Botty, a native of Cammeron, Wis. “We did our riot control training with them last year and they worked just as hard as we did. So we know if we had to go into a mob situation (with them), we’d be able to trust those in our right flanks or our left flanks.”
During the non-lethal weapons training, U.S. and Moroccan forces experienced a TASER (Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) orientation and demonstration. Afterward, these service members were given the opportunity to feel a 5-second blast of about 50,000 volts—some for the first time—from the TASER probe that was manually attached to their boot.
On the next day, all service members were given the opportunity to shoot the Moroccans’ AK-47 service rifle, and the Marine Corps’ M240G machine gun and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. The U.S. and Moroccan forces fired more than 5,200 rounds of ammunition by the end of the day.
Botty, on his second consecutive AFRICA LION, has not only noticed a progression in the interoperability between the two nations but he has also noted an increase in camaraderie.
“This year, the Moroccans were much more willing to do the TASER with the Marines,” said Botty. Last year, the U.S. and Moroccan experienced the TASER separately.
“This year, it was the Moroccans intertwined with the Marines…we’ve had some camaraderie so far this year,” said Botty. “Some people were coming up to each other and saying, you and I; we’ll do it (TASER) together.”
Along with the difficulties of operating in a combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise is the differences in culture and language. However, these Marines have found the right ingredients to create a partner in peace.
“The best way to break the barriers is to make friends. Interact with them. Find out which ones can help you,” said Cpl. Anthony S. Kiehl, an MP with MP Company, HQBN, 4th MarDiv. “Some of them speak a little English…some of us speak a little Arabic and French. You make friends, and by making friends you get comfortable.”
Although, Kiehl admitted it wasn’t easy at first. “When we first got here they were kind of quiet, kind of distant, but as soon as we did our first drill together, they realized we’re the same people they are, just different countries,” said Kiehl.
Kiehl has learned that the Moroccans are not much different than the Americans.
“You don’t have to fear the other just because of who they are, who they look like, what they speak,” said Kiehl. “The best way (to make friends) is to get in with them and interact.”
AFRICAN LION is an annually scheduled, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise that includes various types of military training including command post, live-fire training, peacekeeping operations, aerial refueling / low level flight training as well as a medical, dental, and veterinarian assistance projects to run concurrent with the training.