CAP DRAA, Morocco — The sun barely peeked over the horizon when the stillness was shattered by the roar of artillery. The son of a Houston woman crawled out of his tent into the southern Moroccan morning to begin another day.

Marine Reserve Sgt. Alan R. Carson, son of Jan Cole of Houston, is in Morocco supporting exercise African Lion 2011.

“I am a scout in1st Platoon, Fox Company, and my duties are to take charge of my team of Marines when we dismount the light armored vehicles and ensure the security of the area,” said Carson, a 2005 graduate of Houston High School.

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.

Training in Morocco is a lot like training in Twentynine Palms, Calif. It is a much better similarity to Iraq than training in South Carolina,” said Carson, assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Eastover, S.C.

In spite of the barriers, Carson and his 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.

“The best part of this training is that it helps us as Marines to get used to a desert environment,” said Carson.

Carson 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.

“This part of Morocco is a lot like Iraq,” said Carson, who has completed four years of military service.

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. Carson and the other participants in African Lion 2011 go about their business sharing experiences and knowledge with each other and their Moroccan counterparts.

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