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News | June 12, 2011

CENTAM SMOKE fuels partnerships

By Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Firefighters from the 612th Air Base Squadron's fire department trained alongside partner nation firefighters here, June 6- 9.

The exercise, called Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences, or CENTAM SMOKE, allowed U.S. and Honduran firefighters four days of team-building exercises.

"It's the first exercise like this I've been a part of and it's a great experience working with our host nation counterparts," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Magalianes, 612th ABS firefighter. "Sharing our experience with them is a reward in itself."

The firefighter training included a timed obstacle course where they wore full "bunker gear," including an air-breathing apparatus, while climbing flights of stairs, hoisting and chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized 175-pound "victim."

Other training emphasized air medical evacuation patient loading, first responder medical training, and aircraft and structural firefighting operations.

While enduring 1,000 degree fires in full bunker gear in the summer heat, the 27 Honduran firefighter classmates took away important skills that they will bring back to their firehouses.

"Working with the American firefighters is the best experience of my life and I'd love to work with them more often," said Jerry Ramos, a Honduran civilian firefighter who received the second fastest time at the obstacle course.

Hector Cordova, the Honduran firefighter with the fastest obstacle course time, also enjoyed the challenge while learning how the U.S. Air force firefighters conducted business.

"What I learned the most from them is the importance of physical fitness," Cordova said. "I was also amazed with their attention to detail when working with the equipment and how well they worked together as a team."

The firefighter leaders from both nations reflected during the close of CENTAM SMOKE, now in its sixth year.

"This week has truly been about building relationships here in Honduras and I've been very proud to be part of this event," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Burns, 612th ABS fire chief.

"I want to thank God for giving us the opportunity to be here; this course allows us to go back to our bases as better firefighters and hopefully save more lives that way," said Lt. German Centeno, an instructor at the Honduran National Firefighter Academy.