On Assignment


On Assignment

WTOP national security correspondent JJ Green with US military in North Africa

    WTOP national security correspondent JJ Green is embedding with the U.S. Army for a trip to North Africa to observe a military exercise called “African Lion." The exercise brings together the U.S. military and its partners in North Africa and is aimed at fighting terrorists and regional instability. The key exercise may be even more critical this year. It was recently discovered that ISIS has set up sleeper cells in Africa to launch attacks. Follow all of JJ Green’s reports. 

    Members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces demonstrate training methods with M109A5 howitzers for Soldiers from the Utah National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery Regiment; Idaho National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 148th Field Artillery Regiments; and 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, during exercise African Lion 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Winn)



    Agadir, Morocco — Arriving in Agadir, I was struck by the diversity. It is home to a mix of cultures, ethnicities, languages and hundreds of thousands of people living under a range of economic circumstances. You will see people in expensive cars, clothing and jewelry in the very same frame of view with people who are poverty stricken. This diversity of lifestyle mirrors the complexity of the entire region — complexity that produced the Arab Spring in Tunisia and numerous terrorist incidents there and in Morocco, Mali and Libya. The reason behind the U.S. military’s involvement in Exercise African Lion, is according to USMC Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, “working with its African partners to solve some very complex regional problems including violent extremism, drugs and weapons activities.”  Rankine-Galloway and U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon are here as part of the contingent of more than 1,000 U.S. troops. Dillon said they will engage in all facets of joint military operations, to get ahead of any possible threats that may surface in the future.

    A man rides a cart pulled by a donkey in Agadir, Morocco. (WTOP/J.J. Green)
    MOROCCO — This day started with an early briefing and then a Moroccan Royal Air Force chopper flight to Tata. That’s where a major humanitarian medical operation is underway.
    Remember the first time you went to dentist? This little girl was really scared. I could see it in her eyes. The medical pros from the UT National Guard on site stepped in and took the fear away. (WTOP/J.J. Green)
    There were many children among those who visited the field hospital. (WTOP/J.J. Green)
    People stood in line for hours to see the only doctor they might see for years to come.
    This was all a part of a massive undertaking by Morocco and its “state” partner, Utah (every U.S. state has at least one formal relationship with a foreign country). Utilizing these relationships is one of the ways Exercise African Lion helps to build relationships. Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, commanding general of U.S. Army Africa, stresses that the time to build a relationship is before you need it. (WTOP/J.J. Green)
    After a long day involving a lot flying to remote locations, we end it the same way it started. (WTOP/J.J. Green)
    (Courtesy J.J. Green)

    Tantan, Morocco

    April 5, 2019

    The Moroccan and American flags wave in the air in Morocco. (WTOP/JJ Green)
    TANTAN, Morocco—Exercise African Lion started as a product of bilateral effort between the U.S. and Morocco. Now there are other nations involved. The U.K. is one of them.
    Gen. Roger Cloutier of the U.S. Army Africa as well as Moroccan, U.K. & Tunisian brass watch a ridiculously realistic assault on a terrorist hideout during an African Lion exercise in Tifnit. 
    (WTOP/JJ Green)
    Take a close look at the players seated at the table and the effort behind this exercise. 
    (WTOP/JJ Green)
    Now watch what they're doing:
    All of what I’ve been able to see was orchestrated by Col. Ryan Dillon. He was assisted by Adrian Rankine-Galloway of USMC and Becky Farmer of the U.S. Africa Command.
    (WTOP/JJ Green)
    Public affairs teams are very underrated. 
    Time to move on to the next event. About to hop on another chopper with Col. Dillon. 
     (WTOP/JJ Green)
    By the way there is something called “Rotor-Wash” or “sugar-cookie.” This is what it looks like: 
    It’s basically a dust bath and I had several of those getting on and off CH-47s this week. Wind speeds replicate Cat 2-3 hurricanes. Later, you find small pebbles in your shoes and clothes--yikes!
    More to come... 

    Tallinn, Estonia

    May 25, 2019 


    Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a very old city that proudly displays its heritage but also firmly embraces the future. Estonia is a nation of only 1.3 million people. Since a massive Russian cyber-attack in 2007, the country has become global cyber security powerhouse. It is commonly referred to as the most technologically advanced country on the planet. It’s a global leader in cyber defense strategy and election security. On Russia’s western border, the country, which is only twice the size of New Jersey, is a powerful NATO ally in the recently rekindled western Cold War with Russia. 

    In the coming days, we’ll learn much more about Estonia’s cyber security practices, steps to stop money laundering and state partnership with Maryland.
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