SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. Southern Command senior leaders met with Honduran military leaders to assess the current security cooperation activities within the Department of Gracias a Dios, Nov. 5.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ken Tovo, SOUTHCOM military deputy commander and Air Force Brig. Gen. Jose Monteagudo, SOUTHCOM deputy director of operations, was welcomed by Col. Jose Angel Juarez Melendez, commander of the Honduran 5th Infantry Battalion in Mocoron, Honduras. Throughout the visit, the leaders received briefings and had the opportunity to discuss key issues with Honduran military leadership, to include the concerns of the Gracias a Dios region.
The Gracias a Dios department is a remote, relatively under-governed region of eastern Honduras that is pivotal in combating narcotics trafficking in Central America. As the most forward deployed DoD asset within the SOUTHCOM's regions, JTF-Bravo's 1-228th Aviation Regiment enables troop rotations, which provide essential governmental presence to support counter transnational organized crime operations, in addition to promoting stability and security within the region.
Lt. Gen. Tovo and Brig. Gen. Monteagudo then departed for Puerto Lempira where they were greeted by Paz Garcia Task Force commander, Col. Regalado. The leaders discussed several issues affecting the Puerto Lempira region and how the U.S. and Hondurans can work together to overcome these challenges.
The briefing was then followed by a visit to the Puerto Lempira Hospital, where a tour was provided of the different medical facilities, to include the hyperbaric chamber room, a donation provided by SOUTHCOM in 2008. The lobster industry is one of the main staples that support Puerto Lempira and the local area, and many divers who fish for the marine commodity have suffered from decompression sickness (DCS), also known as the bends. Exposure to DCS can produce many symptoms to include paralysis and death, but if treated early in a hyperbaric chamber, there is a significantly higher chance of successful recovery. The donation was a critical aid to the Puerto Lempira region, and it emboldened SOUTHCOM's commitment to bring medical care and humanitarian assistance to Central America, further strengthening the partnership with the Hondurans.
The leadership engagement was an exceptional opportunity to follow up with the SOUTHCOM commanding general, General John Kelly's commitment to the leaders of Honduras, to recognize the situational challenges, identify support needed in order to build and sustain enduring partnerships and promote security, stability and prosperity throughout Central America.