By Maj. Brent Mangum
19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Utah Army National Guard
Soldiers and Airmen from the Utah National Guard began arriving in Agadir, Morocco, June 14, 2021.
Roughly 300 members of the Utah National Guard will participate in African Lion 2022, U.S. Africa Command's largest, premier, joint, combined annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Ghana, Senegal, and Tunisia, June 6 - 30. More than 7,500 participants from 28 nations and NATO will train together with a focus on enhancing readiness for U.S. and partner nation forces. AL22 is a joint, all-domain, multi-component, and multinational exercise, employing a full array of mission capabilities with the goal of strengthening interoperability among participants and setting the theater for strategic access.
Utah’s participating Soldiers and Airmen will be training in Morocco. The U.S./Morocco relationship goes back to the beginnings of U.S. history. In 1777, Sultan Mohammed III opened Moroccan ports to American ships, making Morocco one of the first countries to recognize the newly independent United States. Soon thereafter, in 1786, Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship, a document that remains the longest unbroken relationship in U.S. history.
Each U.S. state’s National Guard maintains a State Partnership Program with one or more foreign nations. The Utah/Morocco State Partnership Program was established in 2003 and has blossomed into a mature strategic partnership. The overarching goal is support of U.S. government objectives in-country and within the region using a variety of military-to-military engagements. The partnership is expanding to military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian interactions that will support the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to U.S. security cooperation.
“The Utah National Guard State Partnership Program's long-standing relationship with Morocco cultivates and promotes enduring relationships of trust and confidence with Morocco’s military while bolstering U.S. defense security goals,” said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard. “The objectives of events like Africa Lion 22 are to strengthen our bilateral partnerships, build and test our joint team strategic readiness, and to promote regional cooperation to strengthen the ability of African militaries to work together.”
Focus areas that support strategic lines of effort and the National Guard’s objectives are: combined-arms capabilities (including Moroccan Special Operation Forces, Apache AH-64, artillery, and F-16 refueling interoperability); humanitarian demining (HMA/EOD); emergency medicine; disaster response; noncommissioned officer development; and youth exchanges. These partnerships build strategic relationships in personal bonds and enduring trust.
This year’s participating Utah units include Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, Medical Readiness Detachment, and the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade. Participating Airmen come from the 151st Air Refueling Wing. Utah National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will be training primarily in the Moroccan cities of Agadir, Tifnit, Taliouine, Guelmim, and Ben Guerir.
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