TIFNIT, Morocco --
Military police officers from the U.S. Marines, Army and Air Force, along with Royal Moroccan soldiers specializing in riot-control, found common ground as enforcers of the law during African Lion 14.
The training engagement, out on the desert-lined coast of Tifnit, Morocco, focused on more than training alongside partners; it integrated the bilateral band of law enforcers as they ate, slept and worked together for the three-week exercise.
“We are coming together totally integrated with them; we’re not just doing this training as a group of Army, a group of Moroccans, a group of Marines… Everything we do is mixed up to ‘shuffle the deck’ a bit,” said Marine 1st Lt. Philip J, Casata, a platoon leader for 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Exercise African Lion 14 is an annually-scheduled, multilateral training engagement that is hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco. One of the largest of its kind on the continent, the engagement shows the commitment of the participating nations to military friendships, strategic partnerships and regional and global security.
“The broad theme here is security and stability operations,” added the Portchester, N.Y., native.
Stability and security elements that were shared between the joint-contingent of U.S. military police officers and the Royal Moroccan soldiers included: convoy security, crowd and riot control, vehicle and entry control points, nonlethal-weapons employment, escalation-of-force operations, humanitarian assistance, and peacekeeping operations.
“We do everything as one unit and a lot of what we’re doing is sharing our [tactics and experiences], so there’s a little bit of ours and a little bit of theirs,” said Casata.
In addition to their roles as enforcers of law and order on military installations, Marine and Army military police and Air Force security forces fulfill various combat roles in Overseas Contingency Operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The U.S. Military as a whole is very used to the last decade of combat operations, so we see things one way. Moroccans are used to doing a lot of U.N. peacekeeping operations, so it’s very important for us to come together and exchange what we know and how to do things,” said Casata.
U.S. military police in Afghanistan and Iraq have been used for duties ranging from convoy security, dismounted and mounted patrols to military working-dog operations, security details for VIPs and detainee handing.
Royal Moroccan Armed Forces are an important partner in the Maghreb, where a professional and established military is integral to peacekeeping and regional stability on the continent.
“They are the subject-matter experts in a part of the world we’re not used to operating in and on the other end, we bring a bit more of the combat expertise; we’re definitely able to exchange a lot of knowledge,” said Casata.
Bonds as a combined, joint contingent of military police officers were as important as the sharing of knowledge.
“It’s really interesting to see how many similarities we have and, at the same time, what each [U.S.] branch and each country does a little bit different,” said Tech Sgt. Matthew S. Devries, a lead noncommissioned officer from the 916th Security Forces Squadron, Seymore-Johnson Air Base, N.C.
“But since we are all ‘MP’ companies for the most part, it’s generally the same, so it’s easy for us to adjust quickly and work together,” added Devries.
The commonalties in riot and crowd control competencies helped the U.S. servicemembers work with their Moroccan partners more fluidly.
“When you have ‘MPs’ working together, the exercises and qualifications are the same; it’s really easy to relate to each other… the Moroccans are really good at what they do and it’s always good just to work together for a common goal,” added Devries.
The common goals go beyond proficiency in military police skill; it encompasses building on that proficiency with lessons learned by working with counterparts of different nations and different branches.
“The Moroccans are a very good military; they are very disciplined and very eager to learn and share their knowledge. What we’ve been able to do is learn the tactics of the Moroccan military and add it to our own procedures,” said Army 1st Lt. Branden T. Varga, platoon leader of the 230th Military Police Company, Baumholder, Germany.
“It’s important to build cohesion between the two different countries and their militaries and with the Moroccan military, who do a lot of UN peacekeeping missions, we can integrate their procedures and incorporate them into our techniques,” said the Vacaville, Calif., native.
Through all the shared tactics, techniques and procedures, the most important lesson might be one not found in the military learning objectives; one about the bond of an enforcer of the law, despite country or service or location.
“Everyone’s meshing pretty well; in general, we’re all some type of military police, whether Marines, Army, Air Force or Moroccan,” said Casata.
“Given the different backgrounds we came from, it’s by no means a teacher-mentee relationship; it’s been a level training field and a great experience for everyone so far.”