The heat of battle in the desert

A Mar­ine Re­serv­ist from Park­wood Man­or is in Mo­rocco, but it’s hardly a re­lax­ing trip.

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. ••

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