By Capt. Bryant Wine
The Georgia Army National Guard successfully completed port operations May 14, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida, to deploy vehicles and equipment to Morocco for use in exercise African Lion 21.
“The most significant obstacle we faced would be configuring the vehicles for a load on load off the ship,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Isaac Osmer, the unit mobility officer of the Elberton-based 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery. “The configurations could not have happened without the hard work of all of the M-Day and full-time Soldiers within the unit.”
African Lion is U.S. Africa Command's largest and premier exercise, involving more than 7,000 service members from June 7-18. Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, African Lion 21 will execute in three countries: the Kingdom of Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal. Militaries from the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, and elsewhere will join U.S. and host nation troops. U.S. participants come from all service components, including the Reserve and National Guard.
More than 740 U.S. Army Soldiers from the Georgia Army National Guard will participate in African Lion 21.
The Georgia Army National Guard units participating in African Lion include the Fort Benning-based Headquarters, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; the Cumming-based 420th Signal Company, 648th MEB; the Elberton-based 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery, 648th MEB; and the Forsyth-based 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“The cross-level support between battalions outside of one another’s brigade has been critical,” said Osmer. “The ability of Georgia Army National Guard units to work together like this certainly displays our state’s readiness posture.”
Over 200 vehicles and storage containers will deploy with the Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers. This includes nine M109A6 Paladin howitzers, as well as the ammo carriers, wreckers and utility vehicles needed to keep the weapon systems operational.
The completion of port operations is a culmination of many months of diligent work.
Units began packing equipment and preparing vehicles at their assigned armories since January. Then, Soldiers transported the equipment to Fort Stewart, Georgia, to be loaded onto haulers. From them there, the cargo line-hauled to the Jacksonville port where it was unloaded and staged to be put aboard the cargo ship.
African Lion offers the opportunity to improve interoperability and cooperation not just between participating nations, but also amongst Department of Defense branches and combatant commands. For example, United States Transportation Command, United States Army Europe and Africa, and 841st Transportation Battalion all had some role in getting Georgia Guard gear from the peach state to Morocco.
The ability to complete port operations and deploy over two battalion’s worth of equipment demonstrates the Georgia Army National Guard’s professionalism and flexibility. The Georgia Army National Guard prepares forces to meet future missions and unpredictable challenges, and exercises like African Lion 21 puts that endeavor to the test.
“African Lion highlights our ability to be agile and adaptable within a limited amount of time,” said Osmer. “Teamwork has undoubtedly been the reoccurring theme for success at every level.”