U.S. Army Photo by
2nd. Lt. Wencke Tate
After landing in Morocco, the plane was unloaded by
the flight crew and soldiers from the Moroccan military.
After a 6.5-magnitude earthquake rocked
Northeastern Morocco Tuesday, February 24, 2004, the
Utah National Guard (UTNG) worked as quickly as possible to lend a helping hand.
The earthquake killed over 560 people and destroyed most of the small villages
in Northeastern Morocco. Most of the deaths occurred in the rural areas of Al
Hoceima. The city is made up mostly of mud huts that collapsed when the
earthquake hit, smothering those inside.
recently established a partnership with Morocco as part of the State
Partnership Program. The program is designed to link National Guard states
with partner countries for the purpose of fostering mutual interests and
establishing long-term relationships across all levels of society. Members
of the Utah National Guard made their initial visit to Morocco in December
2003 and have invited Moroccan Military officials to visit Utah later this
Because of the 151st Air Refueling Wing capabilities and the relationship
Utah has recently established with Morocco, the UTNG was in a unique
position to be able to quickly send aid.
U.S. Army Photo by 2nd. Lt. Wencke Tate
Lt. Col. Brad Blackner unloads some of
the 3,430 hygeine kits will be
to the victims of the earthquake.
After hearing of the earthquake, Lt. Col. Brad Blackner, the Director of
Civil and Military Relations and State Partnership Program Coordinator, sent an
e-mail to the U.S. Embassy in Morocco expressing the Utah National Guards
condolences and concern for the people of Morocco.
Blackner told the Embassy,
"If we can do anything to help, dont hesitate to ask." Initially the response
from the embassy was, thank you, but, no outside assistance has being requested
by the Moroccan government at this time. That changed when the Moroccan
government sent out a call for help with the disaster.
U.S. Army Photo by
2nd. Lt. Wencke Tate
Carabante, a member of the
Spanish Red Cross was at the airport to
unload the supplies and then he rushed
them to Al Hocein.
Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet gave the go ahead. "Do what you can,
as long as its legal," he said. With the generals blessing, Blackner contacted
the American Red Cross for a list of items needed in Morocco.
Blackner immediately called Garry Flake from the office of
Humanitarian Assistance at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Flake and the LDS church donated an airplane full of medical supplies, personal
hygiene kits, blankets and tarpaulins.
"The church tries to send aid to every disaster. Having the
opportunity to work with the National Guard made everything come together," said
The LDS church donated 3,430 hygiene kits that consisted of two combs,
four toothbrushes, one toothpaste, two bars of soap and two hand towels.
They also donated more than 3,000 pounds of first aid supplies, 7,200
lbs. of wool blankets and 850 lbs. of tarps. The total value of
everything was about $100,000, according to Flake.
would have liked to donate more, but that was all the plane could
carry," said Flake.
With planning in
process in Utah, officials half way around the world at the U.S. Embassy
in Morocco and European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, were greasing the
skids to help to pull off a highly unlikely mission.
took 72 hours of on-again, off-again phone calls and e-mails, but, finally
at 2 a.m. Friday morning the phone call came from Stuttgart saying that the
mission was finally supported and approved at all levels and the UTNG could
proceed with delivering the cargo to the Moroccan people. The Utah Air
National Guard flight crew and warehousemen from the church were on stand-by
awaiting final approval.
U.S. Army Photo by 2nd Lt. Wencke Tate
were unloaded by members of the Moroccan military,
workers at the
U.S. Embassy, Lt. Col. Brad Blackner, 2nd. Lt. Wenke
Tate and the
air crew: Maj. John Hamilton, Maj. Rachelle Harris,
1st. Lt. Dylan
Wilde, Master Sgt. John Salazar, Tech Sgt. John Avilla,
Eric Hill, Tech. Sgt. Larry Phillips, Senior Airman
and Lt. Col. Paul Reutlinger.
Lt. Col. Paul Reutlinger, 2nd Lt. Wencke Tate and the eight-member crew
boarded the KC 135 Stratotanker and took off for Nador, Morocco. After a
short stopover in Bangor, Maine, for refueling, the airplane full of
humanitarian assistance was on its way to Morocco.
Sixteen hours after leaving Salt Lake City, the KC-135 landed at Nador and
was met by officials from the U.S. Embassy, Red Cross, Red Crescent,
Moroccan Military and curious onlookers. Trucks were standing by ready to
rush the much needed supplies to Al Hoceima. Moroccan soldiers worked
alongside the Utah National Guard members to unload the plane by hand.
International Red Cross was in Nador to receive the medical supplies and
sanitation kits. Antonio Carabante, a member of the Spanish Red Cross, met
the airplane and then accompanied Lt. Cmdr. Michael Swartze from the Embassy
with the delivery. "People have lost everything and what were bringing to
them means the world to them," said Carabante.