Central American firefighters sharing operational knowledge with U.S. counterparts

  • Published
  • By Maria Pinel
  • Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo, 612th Air Squadron firefighters trained with 25 firefighters from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Costa Rica at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras during Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences, or CENTAM SMOKE, a biannual exercise held Aug. 19-23.

Five representatives from each Central American nation received basic training in safety practices, personal protection equipment, structural and wildland fires, aircraft fires, vehicle extrication and helicopter familiarization.

During the multinational event, firefighters had the opportunity to work as a team and establish strong bonds of camaraderie and support among partner nations.

"While the purpose of CENTAM SMOKE aims to achieve many objectives, I want to reinforce the power of our strong partnerships and the special responsibility of emergency responders," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Hilburn Caulder, JTF-B deputy commander.

Soto Cano Air Base offers an ideal space for this type of training. Throughout the week, firefighters, divided into multinational teams, experienced different scenarios as they rotated through the Mobile Aircraft Fire Training at the Soto Cano flightline, followed by live structural fires, vehicle rescue training and wildland fire practices.

“Wake up every day with that desire to be just a little bit better than you were the day before,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Washburn, 612 ABS commander, as advice to all participants during his closing remarks. “Train your mind, train your body and train your team, so when the unexpected happens and chaos and uncertainty surround you, you can answer the call.”

The exercise was designed to create and strengthen professional and personal bonds by creating environments where the multinational firefighters faced challenges and overcome the obstacles together.

“CENTAM SMOKE enabled us to ignite the engine of response with those who were strangers on Monday to becoming lifesaving trusted partners today,” Caulder said.

Since 2007, U.S. Air Force firefighters have provided fire and rescue training that has helped develop regional capabilities and interoperability. After completing a week of challenging activities, participants return to their nations with new knowledge that they can put into practice and transmit to their home stations, using this opportunity as an effective-force multiplier.

“We are humbled by the 1,200 partner nation firefighting professionals who have trained over the years at CENTAM SMOKE, and prepared themselves to not run away from danger, but to run into danger. You represent the courage and bond of the brothers and sister of emergency response,” Caulder said.