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Utah National Guard in Morocco for training, but ready to help in wake of earthquake

Posted at 9:41 PM, Sep 09, 2023

MARRAKESH, Morocco — The death toll in Morocco has risen to more than 2,000 people following a destructive earthquake that hit the country Friday night.

The intense magnitude 6.8 quake crumbled buildings and sent people scrambling into the streets of Marrakesh.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox posted to X Saturday morning saying: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kingdom of Morocco in the aftermath of yesterday’s devastating earthquake. Later today, members of the Utah National Guard will leave to assist. Utah stands ready to help through our strong military ties with the kingdom.”

Lt. Col. Chris Kroeber, a spokesperson for the Utah National Guard, said the guard was already heading to Morocco for an exercise called "Moroc Mantlet," which prepares them for earthquake response and which also coincidentally will begin just a few days after Morocco experienced the earthquake.

“It's an exercise that we've been doing with Morocco with our counterparts at the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces,” said Kroeber.

With that being said, Kroeber added that the Utah National Guard will be ready to pivot in providing relief and aid to the country if asked to do so.

“This exercise will bring about 60 of our soldiers and airmen over to Morocco and we’ll be ready to assist in whatever things they’re needing assistance with you know if the authority comes down and allows us to do that,” explained Kroeber.

The Utah National Guard has had a long history with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.

The Utah-Morocco State Partnership Program was formed in 2003, leading humanitarian and training efforts between the two countries.

Kroeber said response efforts from an earthquake were really what solidified the relationship from the start.

“In 2004, Morocco experienced a very large earthquake up in the northern part of the country,” said Kroeber. “It was very new to our partnership and we were able to support them with some humanitarian assistance with the help of some local donors. We were able to fly some materials over there and provide some assistance, and so that really kind of cemented the relationship in the very beginning.”

Kroeber added they are thinking of the people in Morocco at this time as they recover from the devastating aftermath of the earthquake.

“This is a routine thing that we do. We are ready to respond if and when the call comes that we can respond," he said. "And our hearts just go out to the people of Morocco. We stand in solidarity with them and hope the best. And our thoughts and prayers are with them always.”