Guard member trains, experiences new cultureCAP DRAA, Morocco - The sun barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery. The daughter of a New Richmond couple crawled out of her tent into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.
By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer, New Richmond News
CAP DRAA, Morocco - The sun barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery. The daughter of a New Richmond couple crawled out of her tent into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle L. Rivard, daughter of Lee and Jackie Rivard of New Richmond, is in Morocco supporting exercise African Lion 2011.
“I’m a senior truck driver,” said Rivard, a 1996 graduate of Amery High School, Amery. She went on to graduate from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Rice Lake, in 2007. “I maintain accountability of the equipment.”
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 accomplish missions.
“Training with the Moroccans is difficult with the language barrier,” said Rivard, a heavy equipment transport driver assigned to the 4458th Transportation Company, Black River Falls. “But it’s nothing we can’t work through or around.”
In spite of the barriers, Rivard and her fellow service members 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.
“This exercise has given me the opportunity to refresh my knowledge on the heavy equipment and transport system,” said Rivard. “It also lets me help the younger soldiers learn and maintain the system.”
Rivard and her 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 a beautiful country,” said Rivard, who has been in the military for 12 years. “It’s a great experience to be able to see the Atlantic coast and the different vegetation. I have also really enjoyed getting the chance to see Moroccan culture.”
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. Rivard and the other participants in African Lion 2011 go about their business sharing experiences and knowledge with each other and their Moroccan counterparts.