AGADIR, Morocco --
Breaking down language barriers is what happened when U.S. Marines and Sailors worked with their Moroccan counterparts to complete the first exercise of their deployment.
U.S. Marines and Sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) trained with Moroccan military members during Exercise African Sea Lion from July 10-12, 2016 off the coast of the North-African nation.
Several dozen Moroccans came aboard Wasp to discuss planning and tactics with infantry leaders from the MEU’s Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
Lance Cpl. Kerns Tham served as a translator for his platoon, helping the Moroccan forces understand the mission and their roles in the exercise.
“It made me feel very helpful, being able to translate our mission,” Tham said.
The Marines and Sailors gave their Moroccan counterparts a tour of the Wasp and demonstrated the capabilities of the MEU. These interactions allowed the military personnel the opportunity to get to know one another.
“I think that we learned a lot from each other during the Moroccans’ visit,” said 2nd Lt. Marco Valenzuela, the 22nd MEU assistant public affairs officer, who also served as a translator during the exercise. “At one point, you could hear Arabic, French, Spanish and English all being spoken at the same time as we talked about our different cultures and traditions.”
After the tour aboard the Wasp, the Americans and Moroccans flew ashore on MV-22B Ospreys from the MEU’s Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 (Reinforced), 22nd MEU.
While ashore in the dry heat of the African desert, the troops executed mock assaults through sand with full gear, taught each other about some of their weapons systems, and practiced tactical exercises.
Once the group completed their training objectives, they gathered to say final farewells to their new-found brothers-in-arms.
“As we shook hands…before the Moroccans loaded onto the Osprey for their flight home, I knew that this had been an experience I wouldn’t forget,” Valenzuela said.
Moroccan military leaders expressed their gratitude to the American troops and expressed how much they enjoyed watching the two nations come together as one cohesive unit.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
For more information about the Personnel Exchange Program, visit www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/language_culture/Pages/PEP.aspx.