Soldiers from the British Army’s Global Response Force are putting their desert warfare skills to the test alongside their Moroccan counterparts on Exercise Jebel Sahara.
The exercise has seen Colchester-based A Company Group, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (A Coy Gp, 2 PARA) working in Morocco alongside troops from 2e Brigade d'Infanterie Parachutiste.
Exercise Jebel Sahara is all about developing our readiness for operations, wherever and whatever is asked of us. MAJOR NEVE
2ND BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT
For the British paratroopers, the three-week-long exercise near Marrakech provides an opportunity to learn from the Moroccan troops’ experience of operating in the hot, dry and demanding conditions of the desert. In return, they have shared with the Moroccans their hard-earned skills in patrolling, both on foot and in vehicles; marksmanship; demolitions; and casualty care. Troops also honed their fire and manoeuvre tactics on live-fire battle runs.
The exercise is building towards a six-day war game with British and Moroccan troops fighting side-by-side to seize an airstrip to use as a base to launch strike operations from.
Major Ash Neve, Officer Commanding A Coy Gp, said: “Exercise Jebel Sahara is all about developing our readiness for operations, wherever and whatever is asked of us. We’ve been training on demanding and unfamiliar terrain and, by working side-by-side with the Moroccans, we’ve learnt from their experience of the desert and developed a cultural understanding that will help if we operate with North African troops in the future.
“What is also important is that we’ve trained how we would fight. We’ve taken an expeditionary approach, living in austere conditions and relying on the bare minimum that we’ve brought with us or can source locally.”
It’s always interesting to come to a different country and environment to work with other countries' armies. It’s about understanding different challenges, looking at how our partners operate, and sharing skills. CORPORAL BURNELL
2ND BATTALION THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT
2 PARA’s Corporal Paul Burnell said: “It’s always interesting to come to a different country and environment to work with other countries' armies. It’s about understanding different challenges, looking at how our partners operate and sharing skills.
“There’s been a really good relationship between us and the Moroccan soldiers. We’ve been playing football together and most of them speak some English, so we’ve been able to talk about our lives and careers.”
Combat medical technician Lance Corporal Charlotte Wrigley is delivering a team medic course to Moroccan paratroopers.
“What we’re doing is building on the existing knowledge and kit the Moroccans have got to give them the skills to save a casualty’s life on the battlefield,” she said. “They’ve been very interested and keen to learn, and while the language barrier is there we can work around it.”
Morocco is a long-standing partner of the UK in North Africa, with the first bilateral Exercise Jebel Sahara held in 1989. Training together helps build shared skills and relationships between the two armies to improve their ability to operate together.
Lieutenant Colonel Omar Abou-El-Khebra, Commanding Officer of the 22nd Airborne Battalion, said: “Exercise Jebel Sahara is of capital importance as it allows the engagement on the ground of a relatively large number of troops to carry out various tactical missions.
Exercise Jebel Sahara is of capital importance as it allows the engagement on the ground of a relatively large number of troops to carry out various tactical missions. LIEUTENANT COLONEL OMAR ABOU-EL-KHEBRA
22ND AIRBORNE BATTALION
“There has been a significant flow of military knowledge between the Moroccan and British soldiers, who share a relationship based on respect and the pursuit of excellence demonstrated during the execution of combined exercises.
“Military operations in a desert environment take on a particular character imposed by the nature of the terrain and the climate, which requires advanced physical and tactical skills that cannot be achieved without thorough preparation before engagement.”
2 PARA is training to serve as the lead infantry battlegroup for 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, which is held at very high readiness to deploy on operations anywhere in the world. The BCT is specially trained and equipped to deploy by parachute, helicopter and air landing.