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News | Nov. 28, 2007

Local leaders get first-hand look at Soto Cano

By Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Approximately 30 leaders from throughout Honduras visited here Nov. 27 to gain a better understanding of Joint Task Force-Bravo's mission and capabilities.

The annual event brought together not only Honduran government leaders, but also representatives from the U.S. Embassy, World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"It gives us an opportunity to meet with them and see if there are any issues we can help them with. We're building relationships and an understanding of each other," said Army Maj. Nilda Toro, the director of Civil Military Operations for JTF-Bravo. "(They'll learn about) our mission in Honduras, our planned activities for this fiscal year, and to review what we have accomplished this past year."

The major said the visit helps illustrate to the local Hondurans the scope of JTF-Bravo's mission, which oftentimes takes U.S. servicemembers across the border, conducting humanitarian and disaster relief missions throughout the six other countries in Central America, and beyond.

"Many of them think because we're here in Honduras, our responsibility doesn't include the region," Major Toro said. Now they can see what we're doing in other countries; especially this past year (and) they can understand our capabilities and the process of how we can respond to any disaster."

Within the past few months, JTF-Bravo has responded to disasters in the Dominican Republic, Belize and Nicaragua, providing damage assessment and moving food and supplies for USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Educating local government officials about the U.S. Department of State's processes for requesting assistance during such disasters was also highlighted during informational briefings given to the attendees by U.S. military and Honduran air force leadership.

Wendolyn Flores, United Nations World Food Program, said she was very impressed by how JTF-Bravo's facilities and people are focused on the needs of Honduras and Central America. She said she also gained a greater understanding of how the process works to request assistance through the State Department in the event of a natural disaster.

"All of the procedures we have to take - I thought it was easier to request assistance," she said, "but (now I understand) all of the processes for the request to get through the Embassy and the ambassador."

Also attending the event was Jose Ramon Salinas, the operations coordinator for Comisión Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO), a Honduran government agency similar to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Salinas said he was most impressed by JTF-Bravo's "capabilities to deploy to the place that it's needed, and all of the modules that are activated for (emergency) response."

This was Mr. Salinas' fourth visit to Soto Cano, but the first time he's learned of the Army Forces search and rescue capabilities.

"It's a benefit we get as a country to have the base here," he said. "All the relations with COPECO is not necessarily military, so it's good to come out and meet our military counterparts."

After the general overview of JTF-Bravo's mission, the local leaders toured the search and rescue equipment and training areas and walked through a mobile hospital that is capable of being deployed to the field to conduct surgeries in remote areas.