By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer, Special to The Breeze
CAP DRAA, Morocco - The sun barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery. The son of a Bonita Springs man crawled out of his tent into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.
Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Kevin M. Rhodes, son of Robert Rhodes of Bonita Springs, is in Morocco supporting exercise African Lion 2011.
Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean Worrell
Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Kevin M. Rhodes is a joint fires observer assigned to the 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, West Palm Beach, Fla. He recently deployed to Morocco in support of a bilateral training exercise with the Moroccan military.
"I'm an artillery forward observer and joint fires observer," said Rhodes, a 2003 graduate of Estero High School. "I call for artillery fire and work with Moroccan forward observers."
African Lion is an exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S. that involves more than 2,000 U.S. service members and approximately 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. The exercise serves as a way for both U.S. and Moroccan military members to hone their skills and learn to work together to a accomplish missions.
"It is a great experience to work with the Moroccans," said Rhodes, a joint fires observer assigned to the 4th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, West Palm Beach, Fla. "The cultural barriers is a huge difference from working with other U.S. forces back home."
In spite of the barriers, Rhodes and his fellow servicemembers worked with the Moroccan forces on different types of military training including command post, live fire, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, aerial refueling and low-level flight training. Both the Moroccan and U.S. forces receive valuable training during the course of the exercise.
"I did manage to learn how to survive dust storms when we had one blow through the camp," said Rhodes. "It's been an interesting experience."
Rhodes and his fellow service members not only trained in the Moroccan desert, they lived there as well. They experienced sandstorms, the rain showers of the wet season and the heat that traditionally goes with a desert. They even had an opportunity to spend some time off duty experiencing the culture and seeing the sights.
"Morocco is very different than I thought it would be," said Rhodes, who has been in the military for four years. "It's very cool and rainy this time of year and I was expecting the complete opposite."
As the artificial thunder of artillery fire dies away for a moment, the sun rises fully above the desert horizon and begins its journey toward the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Rhodes and the other participants in African Lion 2011 go about their business sharing experiences and knowledge with each other and their Moroccan counterparts.