NEWS | April 9, 2012

Utah Air Guard, Morocco partner during Aeroexpo Marrakech

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson, U.S. Air Force U.S. Air Forces - Europe

MARRAKECH, Morocco - The 191st Air Refueling Squadron from the Utah Air National Guard took part in Aeroexpo Marrakech 2012 recently.

The Utah Guard is also paired with Morocco through the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, which was established in 1993 to build relationships with nations around the globe through civilian and military partnerships.

"The hospitality that we have received so far is very generous, very friendly and very outgoing," said Air Force Lt. Col. Lisa Berente, a KC-135 pilot with the 191st ARS.

Though the Royal Moroccan Military welcomed all of the U.S. service members in attendance, there is a special relationship with the Utah Guard members because of the realtionships built through the SPP.

"We are pretty involved," Berente said. "Our [adjutant general] has been remarkable on his effort with this program. Both he and the senior leadership here in Morocco have been very engaged with each other and consequently it has really been a rewarding deal for both partners."

Morocco and Utah may have only become state partners in the last 20 years, but the bonds that tie Morocco and the United States together has a long history.

"Morocco prides itself as being the first country to recognize the United States as being an independent country and that's why they celebrate the Fourth of July here as well," said Air Force Lt. Col. Corey Love, a KC-135 pilot with the 191st ARS

Berente said she had the opportunity to celebrate the Fourth of July in Rabat, Morocco, two years ago when she helped fly and Army band there for the occasion. The mission of the Air National Guard in Morocco, however, runs much deeper than celebrations and aeroexpos.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Walter Durtschi, a 191st ARS crew chief, was previously in Morocco to support African Lion, an annual medical exercise.

"We came to Morocco with a medical unit and staged out of Agadir and on four different occasions we drove out into the countryside where the locals - and a lot of them had never even seen doctors before - would come and we would do exams with basically every kind of doctor you can think of," he said.

"In our one clinic we saw anywhere from 50-450 patients in one day. We would do exams and hand out prescriptions that the state of Utah had donated - antibiotics, pain killers and prenatal vitamins," Durtschi said.

African Lion is scheduled to once again take place this year shortly after the aeroexpo, and it will demonstrate the commitment of both nations to strengthen their existing friendship.

"It is mutual. We appreciate the invitations to come over here; we invite them over to our place and show them Utah. It is just a great relationship," Berente said "I think there is great merit on both sides to continue."