USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- The USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) hosted the U.S. ambassador to Morocco, the commander, U.S. Africa Command, staff, and Moroccan guests, April 16.
Ambassador Samuel L. Kaplan and Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, also joined a few Moroccan military officers aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), flagship of the Iwo Jima ARG, for lunch and a brief tour.
Ham and his staff had one-on-one time with the junior Sailors and Marines during lunch, eating on the mess decks and learning about the individual service members and their day-to-day operations.
"It felt so good to rub shoulders with the general," said Machinist's Mate Fireman Mike Mukasa, a Sailor aboard Iwo Jima. "He talked with us about ship life, communication with our families and our career goals. It was a great experience."
During their time aboard, Kaplan and Ham were given a tour of the Iwo Jima and saw firsthand how the Sailors and Marines coexist and conduct maritime security operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
"The reason for today's visit was to convey to our Moroccan friends how important this training event was for us," said Col. Frank Donovan, 24th MEU commanding officer, referring to Exercise African Lion. "We also want to thank them because we are better trained and prepared for the challenges ahead of us."
The day trip was brought to a close with an all-hands call in the hangar bay, and a gift presentation in the Flag Mess, leaving the VIPs with a lasting impression of the Iwo Jima and its crew.
"Coming here today was an opportunity of a lifetime," said Kaplan. "I must tell you, the teamwork I witnessed between U.S. military and our Moroccan allies, is something truly impressive. It was a great privilege to be here today."
The Iwo Jima ARG, with the embarked 24th MEU, is deployed participating in CJCS Exercise African Lion, a bilateral exercise between U.S. and Moroccan forces, in the U.S.6th Fleet area of responsibility.
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