SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Over 300 4th Battalion Honduran military members loaded their gear and supplies onto CH-47F Chinooks and UH-60 Blackhawks during a four-day period to be transported to forward operating posts in the remote regions of Honduras October 6-9.
In coordination with the U.S. Embassy's Office of Security Cooperation and the Honduran Air Force Operations directorate, Operation Caravana's sole purpose is to provide the Honduran military freedom of movement and access to the isolated areas in Gracias a Dios, Colon and Olancho in order to continue their security operations. These troop movements and logistics re-supply flights will occur on an as-needed basis.
Currently, they use logistic ships to rotate personnel and transport supplies from Puerto Castilla to Gracias a Dios. Several stops throughout the coastal region are made unloading people and provisions, then wait for the returning personnel to board and finally return to home port. The whole process took eight days. In contrast, transporting by helicopter to these areas only takes a few hours.
"The fact that (the U.S. military) provides us with logistics and personnel transportation support allows us to have more training time which results in a better performance in the Gracias a Dios region," said Honduras Army Lt Col. Norman Bustillo, Joint Chief of Staff's operations director.
Honduras is a primary transit country for cocaine, weapons and bulk cash trafficking through Central America. Back in April of this year, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez requested further assistance to battle the growing drug trafficking organizations from U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, U.S. Southern Command commander. Gen. Kelly, among other things, agreed to provide troop and logistical movement capabilities. This support clearly shows a commitment on the part of the U.S. and Honduras to work together to combat the spread of these drug trafficking organizations and to protect Honduran citizens from their violence, harm and exploitation.
Kelly told a National Defense University audience yesterday that Honduras may be the most dangerous place on Earth that is not involved in an actual war, noting that one in seven adult males will die from violence. He also noted that Honduras is overrun by gangs and that health facilities, schools and basic infrastructure are absent from wide swatches of the country.
Bustillo stated that Operation Caravana helps increase the readiness of the soldiers.
"This support is vital for us," added Bustillo. "It saves us time, minimizes risks and gives us an enhanced operational capacity. We've always had a good relationship with the U.S. Armed Forces. They've always helped us with training and cooperation and that strengthens our country."