Kentucky Air Guard trains with 11 nations in Morocco for African Lion

By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

Kentucky Air National Guard crew chiefs prepare a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules for flight at Naval Station Rota, Spain, prior to take off April 27, 2017, during Exercise African Lion. Multiple units from the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and the Kentucky and Utah Air National Guards conducted multilateral and stability operations training with units from the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in the Kingdom of Morocco during the exercise, which ran April 19-28. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — More than 75 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Spain and Morocco this spring for African Lion, a multinational exercise that tested the interoperability of military troops from 11 countries.

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing and three of the unit’s C-130 aircraft joined forces with Airmen from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Forces Africa joint tactical air controllers, the Utah Air National Guard, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces and troops from nine other nations.

“Multinational exercises give us an opportunity to train together, allow us to support joint and total forces and strengthen our skills for future operations,” said Lt. Col. Jason Johnson, U.S. Air Force lead commander for the exercise, which ran from April 19 to 28.

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The U.S. Air Force’s participation in the U.S. Marine Corps-led exercise provided several joint training opportunities for U.S. military branches and Moroccan forces, according to Capt. Tristan Stonger, 123rd Airlift Wing exercise project officer. It also provided an opportunity to reinforce lessons learned from past African Lion exercises and helped build upon a foundation for future military cooperation and engagements.

“Working in a new environment with other U.S. military branches and the Moroccans gives us the opportunity to hone and refine our skills and enhances our professional relationships, allowing us to support the interoperability of forces,” Stonger said.

In addition to building relationships between the branches of the military and the Kingdom of Morocco, the wing was able to perform several different training scenarios to prepare for future deployments, including low-level air drops and low-level navigation through the mountains of North Africa.

“This type of training helps keep our aircrews current and fully prepared and trained for any type of airlift operation that our nation calls for,” said Maj. Penn Brown, a pilot for Kentucky’s 165th Airlift Squadron.

This annually scheduled, combined multilateral exercise aims to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures while demonstrating the strong bond between the nations’ militaries. In addition to forces from the United States and Morocco, other participating nations were Germany, Senegal, Mauritania, Canada, France, Spain, Great Britain, Mali and Tunisia.

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