Utah Aids Morocco After 6.5 Earthquake

 

Written by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Published February 28, 2004

   
After landing in Morocco, the plane was unloaded by the flight crew and soldiers from the Moroccan military.
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.

The UTNG 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 summer.

        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.      

Lt. Col. Brad Blackner unloads some of the 3,430 hygeine kits that will be given to the victims of the earthquake.
U.S. Army Photo by 2nd. Lt. Wencke Tate

Lt. Col. Brad Blackner unloads some of

 the 3,430 hygeine kits will be given

 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 Guard’s condolences and concern for the people of Morocco.

     Blackner told the Embassy, "If we can do anything to help, don’t 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.

Antonio Carabante, a member of the  Spanish Red Cross.
U.S. Army Photo by 2nd. Lt. Wencke Tate

Antonio Carabante, a member of the 

Spanish Red Cross was at the airport to help

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 it’s legal," he said. With the general’s 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 Flake.

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.

    "We 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.

 It 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.

The supplies 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,  ech. Sgt. Eric Hill, Tech. Sgt. Larry Phillips, Senior Airman Jamie Ridgeway and Lt. Col. Paul Reutlinger.
U.S. Army Photo by 2nd Lt. Wencke Tate

 

The supplies 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,

ech. Sgt. Eric Hill, Tech. Sgt. Larry Phillips, Senior Airman

Jamie Ridgeway and Lt. Col. Paul Reutlinger.

    Blackner, 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.

     The 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 we’re bringing to them means the world to them," said Carabante.