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Utah ANG aircraft and crew participate in Morocco's 2010 Aeroexpo Marrakech

Master Sgt. Eric Henderson, a boom operator from the 151st Operations Group, unloads school supplies for a Moroccan orphanage Jan. 24. The 50 school kits, which were assembled and donated by spouses of the Utah National Guard's senior enlisted leaders, were flown on a Utah ANG KC-135. The aircraft will also participate in the Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010 scheduled for January 27 to 30 in Morocco. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin (Unclassified)

Master Sgt. Eric Henderson, a boom operator from the 151st Operations Group, unloads school supplies for a Moroccan orphanage Jan. 24. The 50 school kits, which were assembled and donated by spouses of the Utah National Guard's senior enlisted leaders, were flown on a Utah ANG KC-135. The aircraft will also participate in the Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010 scheduled for January 27 to 30 in Morocco. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin (Unclassified)

MARRAKECH, Morocco -- The Utah Air National Guard's KC-135 Stratotanker and flight crew are participating in the Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010 at the Royal Air Forces Military Base in Marrakech, Morocco from January 27 to 30.

The KC-135 from the 151st Air Refueling Wing is being showcased as a static display at the international air and trade show. En route to the show, the KC-135 also refueled two F-16 Fighting Falcons from McEntire Joint National Guard, South Carolina. The two F-16s are performing in the air show to demonstrate their capabilities.

The objective of U.S. participation in the air show is twofold: to demonstrate support to the Moroccan decision to purchase 24 F-16 aircraft, and to support U.S. Africa Command's strategic engagements in the region.

"The Moroccan's purchase of the F-16s is positive," said Col. Dar Craig, commander of the 151st Operations Group. "Their F-16s will have a high impact for maintaining stability in the region."

The Utah National Guard and Morocco have been working together through a NG State Partnership Program (SPP) since 2003. The SPP's mission is to link NG 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 ANG's roles to participate in events, like air shows, that help strengthen military ties.

Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet, who has been The Adjutant General of the Utah National Guard since 2000, has overseen the Utah SPP since it was first initiated. He recently attended the air show stating 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, is hosting more than 40 delegates and diplomatic authorities, mostly from Africa, at the show. Participation in this event has provided the U.S. government with the opportunity to expand its network of partners by opening dialogue with other Central and West African nations.

The Utah ANG 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 the Utah ANG's KC-135 may be working closely with Morocco in the future.

"We will be working with refueling because the Moroccans refuel with drogues and the F-16s have to be refueled with booms," said General Tarbet. "We also want to be a part of the team that ferries the F-16 delivery across."

The Utah ANG 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 school 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 ANG with a historical perspective.

"Our SPP with Morocco got off to a great start because of the ANG," 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 NG also participates in several other humanitarian efforts in Morocco.

As part of Operation African Lion, an annual three-week deployment in Morocco, the Utah NG sends equipped medics to travel to remote locations to treat thousands of locals in need of care.

Other Utah NG projects include building schools, women's centers, and libraries, drilling wells that provide clean water, agriculture and pet-farming education, and most uniquely, a youth exchange program where Moroccan families and American military families exchange youth who participate in the 10-day cultural immersion program.

"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 very substantial."

Morocco holds the longest standing treaty with the United States. They were also the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States from Great Britain in 1777. The Utah NG SPP was the first U.S. partnership in North Africa, and the first between a state and a predominantly Muslim nation.