Marine supports exercise in Morocco

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer
A group of Marines work on their squad movement skills during African Lion 2011. During the exercise U.S. and Moroccan forces trained on different types of military training including command post, live fire, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, aerial refueling and low-level flight training.

The sun barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery.  The son of a Gonzales man crawled out of his tent into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.

Marine Corps Reserve Lance Cpl. Jonathan J. Dunning, son of Jim Dunning of Cleo Road, Gonzales, is in Morocco supporting exercise African Lion 2011.

“I am here supporting an artillery unit.  I transport the howitzer and ammunition when it is needed,” said Dunning.

African Lion is an exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S. that involves more than 2,000 U.S. service members and approximately 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. 

The exercise serves as a way for both U.S. and Moroccan military members to hone their skills and learn to work together to a accomplish missions.

“The terrain is different, but the training is all the same. Sometimes it feels like I am still in the states,” said Dunning, who is assigned in Reading, Pa.

In spite of the barriers, Dunning and his fellow servicemembers worked with the Moroccan forces on different types of military training including command post, live fire, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, aerial refueling and low-level flight training.  Both the Moroccan and U.S. forces receive valuable training during the course of the exercise.

“I am learning how be far away and still maintain my spirits while training,” said Dunning.

Dunning and his fellow service members not only trained in the Moroccan desert, they lived there as well.  They experienced sandstorms, the rain showers of the wet season and the heat that traditionally goes with a desert.  They even had an opportunity to spend some time off duty experiencing the culture and seeing the sights.

“Morocco is much different than I expected.  We came at a good time of the year because the weather has been bearable,” said Dunning, who has been in the military since 2009.  “I was expecting to see much more wildlife though.”

As the artificial thunder of artillery fire dies away for a moment, the sun rises fully above the desert horizon and begins its journey toward the nearby Atlantic Ocean.  Dunning and the other participants in African Lion 2011 go about their business sharing experiences and knowledge with each other and their Moroccan counterparts.