Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera -- The parade deck outside of 2nd Longshoreman Platoon’s home at Stone Bay, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, became a Moroccan port for a short time on the weekend of Feb. 8. Vehicles carrying minor or feigned cargo passed through the gates and, with the help of Marines, soldiers and sailors, navigated checkpoints and obstacles the service members could face in the upcoming US African Command and Morocco annual training exercise, African Lion 2013.
In mid-April when African Lion 2013 comes into full swing, Marines from 2nd Longshoreman Platoon, a reserve platoon with 4th Landing Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, along with soldiers 688th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Virginia, and sailors with Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port Unit 107 from Raleigh, N.C. are scheduled to work on the Moroccan port to ensure the proper offload gear, equipment and assets needed for mission success.
While the service members from multiple branches typically work side by side during African Lion 2013, this is the first time the dock workers have been briefed or trained together while in the United States.
“This is an opportunity to start working as a team here while practicing what we will need to do (in Morocco),” said Capt. Ania Driscoll, the Inspector-Instructor of 2nd Longshoreman Platoon.
By communicating with the separate branches involved, leaders of the participating units going found many of the tasks they needed to complete complimented each other.
“We’re combining our efforts to facilitate the big picture,” said Driscoll.
Establishing relationships now allowed the service members set up a rapport early in the game.
“We’re breaking the ice before we go to Morocco,” said Navy Lt. John Renderio, a sailor with Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port Unit 107. “Being able to meet each other before we arrive takes a lot of the learning curve out. We can hit the ground running when we arrive at Morocco. ”
Sailors with Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port Unit 107 are to act as a liaison between those conducting dock operations and the ship bringing in the cargo.
“We’re their eyes and ears on the pier,” said Chief Petty Officer Ray Kelley, a chief boatswain’s mate with Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port Unit 107. “We take down the barriers between other branches and the Navy.”
The 688th Rapid Port Opening Element, a part of the Joint Task Force-Port Opening, is seeking validation, a process where the group is graded on joint mission essential tasks, throughout African Lion 13.
The members or 688th Rapid Port Opening Element are experienced with creating a team quickly, as they frequently work with other branches. However, having information early was different for the group that typically handles emergency response and other events requiring swift support.
“We’re used to having information only hours before a mission,” said Army Capt. Joseph Borovicka, the commanding officer of 688th Rapid Port Opening Element. “We move very quickly and open seaports and airports rapidly. This is a luxury.”
While the extra prep time is not something the team needs, it is a welcome aspect of their preparation.
The Marines, sailors and soldiers spent the days learning about their individual roles in the big scheme of the port they will be working on during African Lion 2013 by utilizing a Power Point presentation, diagrams, sand table exercises and by demonstrating through practical application.
The Marines were able to see how their part will function in the overall scheme of port operations during African Lion 2013.
“The aerial view (diagram) and sand tables helped us see the moving parts and gain a greater understanding,” said Lance Cpl. Harold Dilbert-Martinez, an embarkation specialist with 2nd Longshoreman Platoon.
Driscoll expects giving the troops as much information as possible will empower them.
“Junior Marines are thinkers,” said Driscoll. “They have awesome ideas to bring to the table that we don’t always see. Our most junior Marine is still a leader. We want them to go out there with the confidence to get everything done.”
While African Lion 2013 tackles training and humanitarian assistance along with a multitude of other actions the team can rest easy knowing they have a team at the ports prepared for the challenges ahead.