Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo tested its disaster response readiness by conducting an exercise and a Global Health Engagement in Belize, Jan. 7 -18, 2022.
Exercise “Keel-Billed Toucan”, named after Belize’s national bird, validated the Task Force’s ability to mobilize personnel, assets and supplies safely and quickly, to assist regional partners in the event of a natural disaster, following strict COVID-19 protocols.
“During the last few days JTF-Bravo had the opportunity and pleasure of training in beautiful Belize,” said U.S. Army Col. Steven Gventer, JTF-Bravo commander. ”I am proud of how our team has performed and demonstrated our commitment to maintaining a ready force, capable of supporting our Central American partners”
U.S. Army helicopters assigned to the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment facilitated transportation of personnel and equipment in addition to participating in the exercise through airlift, medical evacuation and search and rescue scenarios.
Personnel with the 612th Air Base Squadron, Army Forces Battalion (ARFOR) and the Joint Staff also engaged in coordination and tested equipment, skills and capabilities through various exercise injects as well as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape jungle training. Additionally, ARFOR successfully constructed and operated a forward arming refueling point, extending the range of rotary aircraft.
“Throughout the exercise, JTF-Bravo and Army Forces Battalion worked hand-in-hand to ensure an effective portrayal of a real-world [Humanitarian and Disaster Relief] operation,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Micah Baker, ARFOR commander. “From operating a forward arming refueling point, to maintaining a tactical operations center, our coordination with the various units on Soto Cano was excellent.”
Belize provided an ideal setting to conduct this exercise due to its terrain as well as an opportunity to strengthen ties with Belizean partners. The objective was to transport equipment and personnel to another location outside of Honduras, where the Task Force is based, and test the capability to self-deploy within the area of operations, using organic assets to conduct a disaster relief operation in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance - the lead agency during a U.S. international response.
While this iteration did not include direct participation from Belize, the Central American nation received real world benefits during a Global Health Engagement, where JTF-B medical personnel integrated with local counterparts to provide primary care, preventative medicine, dental and pharmacy services in Jalacte and San Pedro Columbia, aiding more than 775 Belizeans.
“Exercises such as Keel-Billed Toucan reflect the United States’ enduring commitment to our Belizean partners and the strong ties and friendship we share between our two countries,” said Layla Moses-Ones, Chargé d’ Affaires, U.S. Embassy Belize.
The exercise also provided opportunities for subject matter expert exchanges between U.S. service members, local forces, and the British Army, and allowed our aviation team and planners to familiarize with the area.
“Thank you to the wonderful people of Belize, you are always very gracious hosts and friends,” remarked Gventer. “We look forward to our continued partnership and a joint KBT in the future.”
As trusted partners to Central America, JTF-Bravo strives to be ready to support when called and exercises such as KBT prepare the team to respond and better coordinate with nations across the region if a disaster were to happen.
Approximately 150 members from units across JTF-Bravo received training during this exercise and successfully completed the first iteration of KBT.