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Italian-Moroccan Joint Activities

By 1Lt. Javier Donesteve
First published in
SFOR Informer#107, February 21, 2001

Mostar - It is getting dark on this Bosnian evening. Near Nevesinje, a four-vehicle patrol can be seen travelling through "Pommard" SFOR route; two Moroccan (a humvee and a VAB), and two Italian VM-90s.
This is one of the exchange activities that took place between members of the Italian and Moroccan contingent in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of MND (SE) January 22 to 26. First, the Moroccans visited Tito Barracks, in Sarajevo, where the tasks and procedures of the Italian Battlegroup were explained to them. The Italians also showed the Moroccans their weapons, equipment and vehicles. The three days ended with a joint patrol in the area of Pale, Italian AOR.
The exchange activities continued at the Moroccan installations in Mostar Ortijes. An Italian platoon from 12 Company, 14 Alpini Regiment, returned the visit.
Similar activities to what took place at Sarajevo were run during the next two days. The last exercise, most important, was a patrol in Nevesinje area.
"At present, our company is supporting the French Battlegroup, so we usually work in their AOR," said 1st Lt. Mohamed Elias Ben Moussa, Moroccan Army, now playing the role of host, and leading the patrol.
Ben Moussa, officer of a paratrooper unit in Morocco, said this isn't his first joint exercise. "I have been in Spain for joint training with Spanish Paratroops, and here in BiH with the French and Germans."
1st Lt. Gianluigi Gamberini is the Italian platoon leader. "These exchanges are very interesting," he said. "You do something out of your routine, and observing different armies and procedures, you always learn."
Though this is his first exchange, others in his platoon have been in Germany training with the U.S. Army. Gamberini said he noticed that Moroccan weapons are of bigger calibre, 7.62 FN FAL rifles and 12.70 Browning machine guns in front of 5.56 Beretta SC 70/90 rifles and MINIMI machine guns.
"Their vehicles are also more armoured and heavier, VAB in front of VM-90. But the procedures and the way of doing things are more or less the same," Gamberini added. "I would add that they are very serious workers, well organised, and (use) a lot of safety in whatever they do."
The patrol reaches a resettlement and a joint dismounted squad walks around, led by Cpl. Boujemaa Bouchtita, an experienced soldier with more than 20 years of service in Moroccan Army. He is flanked by a translator and Cpl. Carmelo Donvito of the Italian Army. As patrol leaders, they also enjoy the combined activities with foreign armies.
Already without daylight, the patrol went back to Mostar. Despite snow, ice, darkness and the state of the road, Italian Lance Cpl. Ivan Zufferli drives his VM-90 armoured vehicle safely. "We drove many kilometres without any problems," he said. "It is our job."
Back in the camp, the Italian platoon enjoyed a typical Moroccan dinner after four days of intense activity. "But this has not finished yet. It will be tomorrow when we arrive to our camp after a three-hour drive," Gamberini said. "Activity goes on."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy, Morocco
SFOR at Work