Morocco earthquake: Utah sending Air Force plane, disaster response team

‘We are here for you and we are ready to assist you in any way that we possibly can,’ Gov. Spencer Cox says.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Royal Moroccan Armed Forces General de Brigade Aziz Idriss Yazami (center), Utah Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Daniel Boyack and Gov. Spencer Cox observe a moment of silence for fallen service members during the Utah National Guard Governor's Day at Camp Williams on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

When a Moroccan military delegation traveled to Utah to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a partnership with the state’s National Guard, it didn’t anticipate that a 6.8-magnitude earthquake would strike their home country, killing more than a thousand people.

During his speech at a Governor’s Day ceremony at Camp Williams on Saturday, Gov. Spencer Cox reflected on a trip he took to Morocco to mark the anniversary of the state’s partnership earlier this year, and extended a promise to help Utah’s “dear friend” recover.

“It is with a somber note that we recognize and send our thoughts and prayers to our friends in Morocco,” Cox said.

“We are here for you and we are ready to assist you in any way that we possibly can. We pledge our hearts, our lives and ... everything that we have — our assets — to help you rebuild,” Cox said. “We are your friends and we are here to help you.”

The Utah National Guard began working with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in 2003 as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program. The program is meant to not only build security relationships, but also foster cultural understanding between countries, according to the National Guard.

After the last severe earthquake to shake the country in 2004, just months after the relationship was established, the Utah National Guard distributed more than 19,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to Moroccan victims, The Associated Press reported.

“Special thanks to General [de Brigade Aziz Idriss] Yazami for joining us today as we commemorate the 20-year anniversary of our partnership with Morocco,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Daniel Boyack, who ceremoniously assumed command of the Guard on Saturday.

“I add my thoughts and prayers to the governor’s, and commit we’re ready to help in any way we can,” the new commander said during his speech.

Boyack said a disaster response team was preparing to fly to the North African country later Saturday.

An officer in the Moroccan military told The Salt Lake Tribune that the delegation learned of the earthquake through a breaking news alert while in Utah, and immediately began calling home to their families.

“So, frankly speaking, our bodies are here, but our hearts are there,” he said.