The Utah Air National Guard’s KC-135 Stratotanker and flight crew participated in the Aeroexpo Marrakech at the Royal Air Forces Military Base in Marrakech, Morocco, January 2010.
The KC-135 was showcased as a static display at the international air and trade show.
The KC-135 also served an air refuelling mission en-route to the show, refuelling two F-16 Fighting Falcons, from South Carolina. The two McEntire Joint Forces National Guard base F-16s were also in Morocco performing in the air show to demonstrate their capabilities.
The objective of US participation in the air show was twofold: to demonstrate support to the Moroccan decision to purchase 24 F-16 aircraft, and to support US Africa Command’s strategic engagements in the region, AFRICOM reports.
“The Moroccans’ purchase of the F-16s is positive,” said Colonel Dar Craig, commander of the 151st Operations Group, at the air show.
“Their F-16s will have a high impact for maintaining stability in the region.”
The Utah Air National Guard and Morocco have been working together through a National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) since 2003. The SPP’s mission is to link National Guard units with partner countries for the purposes of fostering mutual interests and establishing habitual long term relationships.
The program encourages the development of economic, political, and military ties between Utah and Morocco through military to military, military to civilian, and civilian to civilian exchanges. As such, it is one of the Utah Air National Guard’s roles to participate in events, like air shows, that help strengthen military ties.
Major General Brian L. Tarbet, who has been the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard since 2000 and has overseen the Utah State Partnership Program since it was first initiated, attended the air show and stated that he has seen an extraordinary amount of growth within the program.
“We have learned a great deal from our Moroccan counterparts,” said General Tarbet.
“This is a bi-lateral relationship where we learn from each other. We learn best practices, and it has broadened our perspective.”
The Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010 focused on the developing aeronautical industries in Morocco, hosted more than 40 delegates and diplomatic authorities, mostly from Africa, at the show. Participation in this event has provided US government with the opportunity to expand its network of partners by opening dialogue with other Central and West African nations.
The Utah Air National Guard also participated in the first edition Aeroexpo Marrakech in 2008.
The Moroccan military’s delivery of F-16s is scheduled for 2011. General Tarbet said he anticipates that Utah Air National Guard’s KC-135 may be working closely with Morocco in the future.
“We will be working with refuelling because the Moroccans refuel with drogues and the F-16s have to be refuelled with booms,” said General Tarbet. “We also want to be a part of the team that ferries the F-16 delivery across.”
The Utah Air National Guard also participates in many humanitarian efforts in Morocco, and this trip was no exception. Among the KC-135’s additional cargo were 50 school kits, which were offloaded and given to a local orphanage January 24. The kits were assembled and donated by the spouses of the Utah NG senior enlisted leaders.
When visiting the KC-135 flight crew at the air show, General Tarbet complimented the Utah Air National Guard with a back-history account.
“Our SPP with Morocco got off to a great start because of the ANG (Air National Guard),” said General Tarbet. “In 2004, the northern coast of Morocco suffered a devastating earthquake. Within 48 hours there was a Utah ANG KC-135 sitting on the deck, filled with donated emergency-response supplies. That got us off to a start that was hard not to succeed with. We’ve just deepened and strengthened those ties ever since.”
The Utah National Guard also participates in several other humanitarian efforts in Morocco.
As part of Exercise African Lion, deployed almost every year in Morocco in two to three-week tours, the Utah National Guard sends equipped medics to travel to remote Moroccan locations to treat thousands in need of care.
Other Utah National Guard projects include building schools, women’s centres, and libraries, drilling wells that provide clean water, agriculture and pet-farming education. Most uniquely, Moroccan families and American military families participate in a student exchange program which offers a 10-day immersion into each other’s cultures.
“Perhaps the highlight of our relationship with Morocco is our youth exchange program,” said General Tarbet. “We trust each other with our kids, which is a substantial amount of trust.”
Morocco holds the longest standing treaty with the US They were also the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States from Great Britain in 1777. The Utah National Guard State Partnership Program was the first US partnership in North Africa, and the first between a state and predominantly Muslim nation.
Pic: KC-135 Stratotanker