Soldiers with the Georgia Army National Guard completed multinational live-fire training under the concealment of night during exercise African Lion 21 June 13-14, 2021, in Tan Tan, Morocco. Artillery fire filled the sky with illumination and infrared light to enable maneuver of infantry underneath.
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.
“To see their [multinational partners] motivation and enthusiasm for this exercise is contagious and has gone all the way down to our youngest riflemen,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Bates, a platoon sergeant with the Cordele-based Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Georgia Army National Guard. “It’s great to share the common love of soldiering.” The live-fire training began with U.S. and Moroccan forward observers calling in their targets to firing batteries kilometers away on the firing line.
Moroccan artillery opened fire with high explosive rounds, simulating the need to force enemy combatants to fix in place and take cover.
Next, M109A6 Paladin howitzers assigned to the Georgia Army National Guard’s Elberton-based 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, lit up the sky with M485 illumination rounds. U.S. and Moroccan infantry moved under the concealment of degraded light, identifying and laying small-arms fire on their targets.
The Georgia Army National Guard’s Forsyth-based 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, formed the infantry force maneuvering on the ground.
Following completion of training under visible illumination, the Granite Battalion Paladins shot over M1066 infrared illuminating projectiles. The IR projectiles brighten the sky with light that is invisible to the naked eye, but viewable through night vision goggles.
The U.S. infantry used the night vision goggles to build confidence in their equipment and their own ability to move, communicate and shoot in austere environments.
African Lion 21 offers training opportunities like this to enhance lethality and interoperability of U.S. and partner forces.
“Myself, as a platoon sergeant, am far more confident in what my squads can do despite being put into a new, challenging environment,” said Bates. “They were able to adapt to the situation, we were able to develop new techniques to respond to illumination, and we were able to execute the mission.”