SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Thirty members of local Honduran fire brigades and volunteer fire departments participated in a fire muster hosted by the firefighters of Joint Task Force Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron here, Jan. 16
The purpose of the fire muster was to bring Honduran and U.S. firefighters together in order to build camaraderie, engage in training, and take part in friendly competition.
"It's important for us to train together and share our knowledge with them so they can bring expertise back to their duties," said Herberth Gaekel, Soto Cano Fire Department Fire Inspector. "Today we are building relationships while teaching them how to do certain things. This event provides a challenge as well as an opportunity to build relationships."
The muster competition consisted of five events, including carrying a fire hose up six flights of stairs, using a sledgehammer to move a 175-pound Kaiser sled, running through a slalom of cones, carrying a charged fire hose line 100 feet and shooting a target with water, and finally dragging a 175-pound dummy backward for 100 feet.
"The event went really well," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Clive Chipman, Soto Cano Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations. "It was interesting how they started out a little confused on the events, but then they caught on and the competition really picked up and they were trying very hard."
While competition was a part of the event, the true focus was on establishing strong ties between the various departments.
"We really focused on friendship and not so much the competition," said Gaekel. "We encouraged everyone to work together. In the beginning, everyone was trying to work as an individual. But by the end, everyone was working together, and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves."
Chipman said events like these are important, because it allows the Honduran and U.S. firefighters to gain a better understanding of the methods each use when responding to an emergency. This becomes especially important in the case of a mutual aid call, when both components work together.
"They get to see our equipment and we get to see their abilities, and that way instead of just working with a complete stranger on a mutual aid call, we are working with people we know," said Chipman. "Events like this really give us a chance to learn how to work with them. Their ways are a little different than ours, so we want to learn how they do things so when we are out working with them we can react and respond with them."
The day ended with the Hondurans and their American counterparts enjoying a cookout together, continuing to build on the camaraderie between the two nations.
"I really feel good about how this went," said Chipman. "I saw how much fun everyone had and how we grew together and became a true team instead of just a bunch of individuals."