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NEWS | June 18, 2021

Georgia Guard completes African Lion 21 with combined arms live-fire exercise

By Capt. Bryant Wine

U.S. Army Soldiers with the Georgia Army National Guard’s Fort Benning-based 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team completed exercise African Lion 21 with a combined arms live-fire exercise June 18, 2021, in Tan Tan Morocco.

African Lion 2021 is U.S. Africa Command's largest, premier, joint, annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal, 7-18 June. More than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO train together with a focus on enhancing readiness for U.S. and partner nation forces. African Lion 21 is a multi-domain, multi-component, and multinational exercise, which employs a full array of mission capabilities with the goal to strengthen interoperability among participants.

The Georgia Army National Guard has deployed more personnel and equipment to African Lion 21 than any other overseas deployment training in the organization’s history. The organization deployed over 640 personnel and 200 vehicles, including nine M109A6 Paladin howitzers.
“The Georgia National Guard leadership team couldn’t be prouder of the Georgia Army National Guard’s contribution to African Lion 21,” said U.S. Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, The Adjutant General of Georgia. “If you look at everything we’ve asked of our Soldiers and Airmen over the last 17 months, it speaks volumes about how agile, resilient and professional our formation is.”

Georgia Army National Guard units participating in African Lion 21 included the Fort Benning-based Headquarters, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; the Cumming-based 420th Network Support Company, 648th MEB; the Elberton-based 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery, 648th MEB; and the Forsyth-based 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th IBCT.

The CALFEX opened with a show of force by U.S. Air Force and Moroccan F-16 Fighting Falcons and U.S. and Moroccan C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Next, U.S. and Moroccan artillery pummeled targets with 155 mm high explosive shells. The Georgia Army National Guard’s 1-214 FA with their nine M109A6 Paladin howitzers fired in conjunction with Moroccan artilleryman and their M109A5 Paladins.

“I think the battalion did an amazing job,” said U.S. Army Lt Col. Nathaniel Knight, battalion commander of 1-214 FA. “The unit came together, we fought together as a cohesive unit, and we put a lot of rounds down range. It’s been a great exercise and a great opportunity to shoot with a multinational partner.”

After the artillery fixed the simulated enemy in place, a coalition force of armor and infantry conducted a frontal assault across the field.

Moroccan mechanized infantry formed the right flank of the assault and Moroccan armor utilizing M1A1 Abrams tanks filled the center. Georgia Guardsmen from the Valdosta-based Delta Company, 2-121 IN represented the U.S. force and controlled the assault’s left flank.

“These combined arms live-fires give our Soldiers the big picture,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Avera, battalion commander of 2-121 IN. “It teaches them how to integrate with multinational partners, but also with other arms like artillery and armor. When they see the bigger picture like that, it gives them better understanding.”

The coalition assault force bounded phase line to phase line across the battlespace, unleashing small arms and armor fire. The exercise ended once the coalition force assaulted through the objective and reached the culminating point.

The combined arms live-fire exercise was African Lion’s final demonstration that there is strength in partnership. African Lion demonstrates long-term commitment to improve partner nation capacity and capabilities in support of U.S. strategic objectives and a safe, stable and secure Africa.

“African Lion and this [combined arms live-fire] exercise proves that we have the capability to deploy anywhere in the world whenever our nation calls on us,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Copeland Rowell, the senior ranking officer of forces in Tan Tan, Morocco. “The Georgia National Guard is an extremely professional force capable of integrating with active component, reserve component, partner nations and joint branches.”