As the morning rain ended and the Moroccan sun began to dry the ground, members of U.S. Transportation Command's Joint Task Force - Port Opening emerged from the pier side warehouse ready to provide a valuable capability to this year's African Lion exercise.

African Lion is a joint and combined annual exercise sponsored by the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, scheduled by U.S. Africa Command, executed by Marine Force Africa and hosted by Morocco's Royal Armed Forces.

Units within Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's 597th and 598th Transportation Brigades play a vital role with JTF-PO.

"We are here to work with our host nation partners and support the mission objectives of USTRANSCOM and USAFRICOM," stated Lieutenant Colonel Marcilyn Patterson, the commander of JTF-PO for African Lion '13 (Commander 838th Trans Bn SDDC). "Here in the support side of JTF-PO, we have to make sure we meet the objectives of our higher headquarters and match them against the mission needs for the maneuver Joint Task Force," she added.

JTF-PO members consisted of elements from the 839th Transportation Battalion, Livorno, Italy; 688th Rapid Port Opening Element at Fort Eustis, Va; and U.S. Naval Reserve 107th Expeditionary Port Unit headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.

"We couldn't be more joint," said Sgt. 1st Class Philip Goodwin, JTF-PO J-1 NCOIC. "We have Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines all working side by side in the port here in Agadir to accomplish the same mission. We have trained hard for this for months and it is exciting to see it in action."

"The Joint Task Force - Port Opening (JTF-PO) is very well suited to a fast port entry situation like we have here in Agadir," explained Major Joseph Borovicka of the 688th Rapid Port Opening Element (RPOE), the Surface Element for the JTF-PO. "The habitual joint relationships, rapid port opening skill sets, and cargo distribution experience in the JTF-PO are serving us well in this environment, and I believe we're bringing real value-added to the entry stage of this exercise."

This CJCS-level exercise will involve more than 1,400 U.S. military personnel as part of USAFRICOM. The exercise begins with troops from different services and nations arriving in early April and joining more than 900 Moroccan RAF in various regions of the Kingdom to take part in the
annual exercise.

African lion is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise involved military cargo shipped by commercial carriers and use of the Marine Pre-Position program vessel the United States Naval Ship the Dahl. Over 400 pieces of military cargo, containers of supply, trucks and trailers were deployed to support starting the exercise.

"Our success on this operation has been determined by the great partnership we share with the members of JTF-PO," said Capt. Ania Driscoll, officer in charge of vessel preparation and cargo operations for the 14th Marine Regimental AAOG. "Every member of the JTF-PO has been helpful in making our efforts meet the exercise objectives and we are really glad to be deployed with them here and supporting our Moroccan friends and partners."

Commander Eric Gunn, the EPU 107 commander attested to the importance of this annual bi-lateral exercise with the Moroccan military. "The Moroccans have been great to work with. It's been gratifying to work with Moroccan civilians and military members alike, and know that both the U.S. and Morocco are benefitting from this outstanding training opportunity."