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NEWS | Jan. 21, 2010

Utah, Morocco still learning from each other

By Sgt. First Class Scott Faddis Utah National Guard

RABAT, Morocco, - Utah and the Kingdom of Morocco have shared experiences and learned lessons from each other throughout the past six years of their alliance through the National Guard's State Partnership Program (SPP).

In 2009, Utah and Morocco supported six different activities to include medical, engineering, disaster, and pandemic disease control.

Morocco is currently in the process of purchasing 24 F-16s from the U.S. government, and the Moroccan Air Force requested air-refueling training missions with the Utah Air National Guard (ANG).

"We need practice with the boom," said Moroccan Maj. Gen. Ahmed Boutaleb, inspector of the Royal Air Force. "We need some help from (Utah ANG) in terms of air refueling with the KC-135."

About 80 percent of what the unit's KC-135 crews do is boom operations, Air Force Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the Utah National Guard's adjutant general.

"When you get new airplanes in 2011," Tarbet said to his Moroccan counterparts, "I hope they are following a Utah tanker across the Atlantic."

The National Guard's State Partnership Program links U.S. states with foreign nations to promote and enhance bilateral relations. The Guard has forged partnerships with more than 60 countries worldwide. Within the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility, Utah is one of eight U.S. states partnered with an African nation's military.

The program promotes regional stability and civil-military relationships in support of U.S. policy objectives, according to AFRICOM officials. State partners actively participate in activities that include familiarization and training events, exercises, fellowship-style internships, and civic leader visits.

The partnership with Morocco has not only experienced aircraft-related training missions, but also medical ones as well.

Utah's partnership brought technology to Moroccans that allowed tracking of pandemic diseases and availability of up-to-the-minute information on the spread of disease at a time when Morocco had six confirmed cases of H1N1 and was concerned about the possibility of a widespread pandemic flu outbreak.

Dr. Don Wood, from Utah's Bureau of Emergency Medical Service and Preparedness, recently discussed the latest information on H1N1 flu to the Moroccan Military's Medical Department, including the inspector of Medical Services, Brigadier General Ali Abrouk.

The Moroccan military and the Utah National Guard share the similar responsibility of providing disaster response support, and their experiences have allowed them to share their knowledge and strengthen their relationship.

"I hope we are acting as good listeners and good students," said Tarbet. "We have a lot to learn from our Moroccan partners."