ILOPANGO, El Salvador –
An inspiring early morning sun rises over a distant volcano as U.S. servicemembers wake, ready to help neighbors in need. Electricity fills the air, and the sound of helicopter rotors starting up can be heard throughout flood-ravaged El Salvador.
Joint Task Force-Bravo members, based at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, helped distribute more than 21,000 pounds of food, water, clothing and hygiene products Nov. 12, to villages of El Salvador that have been cut off by mudslides triggered by massive rains associated with a Pacific-based storm system.
The villages of Verapaz, Guadalupe, Santa Maria Ostumas and San Vicente were completely cut off by damaged roads and bridges after the Nov. 8 flooding.
More than 40 JTF-Bravo personnel, along with one CH-47 Chinook, one HH-60 and two UH-60 Blackhawks deployed here Nov. 11 to provide the people of El Salvador humanitarian aid.
"Joint Task Force-Bravo is here to support the efforts of the people of El Salvador," said Army Col. Chris Gehler, JTF-Bravo commander. "We are here at the request of the Salvadoran government to support the Salvadoran air force in any way we can."
The main focus of the teams is distributing vital supplies to the villages affected, Colonel Gehler said. U.S. Southern Command engineers are also assessing the roads and bridges damaged in order to repair transportation routes.
The helicopter crews spent the day traveling from town to town collecting and distributing supplies.
The mayor of Verapaz said she's grateful for all the work Joint Task Force-Bravo is doing, and it could be seen on the villagers' faces that they are also appreciative of the efforts.
"We are providing vital resupply to these villages where the bridges and roads are being repaired and reestablished," said Army Lt. Col. Curtis Anderson, mission commander. "Our job here is to help alleviate human suffering and provide as much aid as we can while we are here."
The amount of time Joint Task Force-Bravo will be in El Salvador is unknown, Colonel Gehler said. But he added that JTF-Bravo members will be here as long as the Salvadoran government requests their presence.
As the sun sets, many servicemembers who started their day a little slow fall asleep with grins on their faces -- knowing they worked hard at work worth doing: by helping people in need.