Spending the Break in Morocco

Parker Jackson
Parker Jackson
6.5.2015

I have the best part time job in the world. When I’m not in business school, I serve in the Marine Corps Reserve. My unit sends individual Marines all over the world to support all kinds of operations. During the break between the spring and summer semesters, I had the opportunity to serve in Morocco as a staff officer during a combined joint training exercise, African Lion 2015.

Morocco, the first country to recognize the US as an independent country, hosts a coalition of partner nations on a yearly basis to train together. This year’s participants included the UK, France, Senegal, Mauritania, Germany, and Tunisia. The US Armed forces were represented by the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force. We were given training scenario meant to represent a variety of crisis events relevant to the goings-on in the real world today. Our goal was to cut across various cultural boundaries to effectively plan a variety humanitarian and disaster relief operations as the scenario unfolded over the course of seven days.

I am an Intelligence Officer, and my role in what became a din of chaotic-looking activity was to lead a team of 22 Marines and representatives from Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Senegal. Our goal was to understand the events in the territory where our forces were service the populace, and make assessments that our commanding officer could use to make effective decisions, both to effectively employ our assets and mitigate threats. What does this look like?

My team spent the day, collecting all kinds of information about the environment in which we were operating. This included terrorist activity, civilian living conditions, foreign military activity, and other items pertinent to our mission. It was up to my team to sift through mountains of information, and distill all into a meaningful brief for our commanding general and his deputy. This posed a unique challenge.

The deputy was Moroccan and English not his first language, so we translated all of our work and presented it in both English and French on a daily basis at the zero-8 Operations and Intelligence (O&I) brief. Each day at eight o’clock am I briefed the Intelligence Situation with a different coalition partner presenting in French. Each brief was an adventure, you never know what kind of questions a General is going to ask. The great news is that my team was exceptionally motivated and did a great job. We worked through language barriers and developed the type of synergy for which giant corporations would spend billions in goodwill.

When I checked-in for duty I did not expect to be a department head, and was initially a little daunted at all it entailed. Being the new guy, I took my fair share of face shots until the Colonels were comfortable that I was communicating in a way that would be meaningful to the General. It turned out to be a great experience, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I don’t recall ever having a break between classes be more intense than the classes, but that’s how it worked out this time. I need a break, I’m ready for school to start again.