The sun had barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery. The son of a Far Northeast woman crawled out of his tent and into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.
Marine Reserve Lance Cpl. Robert E. Heiser, son of Barbara Dukes of Elnora Road in Parkwood Manor, is in Morocco while supporting the exercise African Lion 2011.
“I am the mechanic for the M777A2 Howitzer. I make sure that the guns are up and running,” said Heiser, a 2009 graduate of George Washington High School.
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 about 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. The exercise serves as a way for U.S. and Moroccan military members to hone their skills and learn to work together to accomplish missions.
“Morocco is very wet and sandy. Training here is a new experience to me,” said Heiser, an artillery mechanic assigned to India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, in Reading, Pa.
In spite of the barriers, Heiser and his fellow service members 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.
“This is my first taste of a deployment. I’m learning what it is like to deploy and work with a foreign military and other units to get the job done,” said Heiser.
He 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 off-duty time experiencing the culture and seeing the sights.
“Morocco is mostly sand and the people are less fortunate than people in other countries, but I did expect a desert environment before I got here,” said Heiser, who has completed one year of military service.
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. Heiser and the other participants in African Lion 2011 go about their business sharing experiences and knowledge, with each other and with their Moroccan counterparts. ••