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News | Aug. 28, 2017

CENTAM SMOKE, enhancing regional firefighting and emergency capabilities

By Maria Pinel Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo hosted 29 firefighters from Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua at Soto Cano Air Base, from August 21 to 25 for the Central America Sharing Mutual  Operational Knowledge and Experiences exercise known as CENTAM SMOKE.

Central American firefighters had the opportunity to train with their U.S. counterparts from the 612 Air Base Squadron, who helped them prepare to face emergencies together under the highest modern standards.

"We prepare them for the future," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Hansen, 612 fire crew chief and instructor. "They all come from different places but what we all have in common is that we are here to make their communities and their homes safer."

During four days of training, firefighters will familiarize with safety practices, personal protective equipment, structural and live aircraft fires, basic medical training, helicopter patient loading and unloading, operation of Bambi buckets and vehicle extrication.

"This is a unique experience since it is rare to have a fire simulator for training in Central America," said Andrés Guevara, representative of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction in Guatemala. "The instructors have a lot of experience and this comes to strengthen the Central American region, since at any moment we can see ourselves in a national emergency in which the other countries could support us," Guevara said.

The purpose of this exercise is precisely to increase mutual assistance, develop camaraderie and strengthen knowledge through the exchange of practices between countries and training under real scenarios.

"I hope they know we are here to work with them and how important it is for us to train together so that we not only protect the areas where we live but leave this training as better professionals," Hansen said.

The firefighters completed the training with a graduation ceremony held at the Fire Department on August 25 during which JTF-Bravo Command Sargent Major Tito Ferrera said “this exercise is an opportunity to bring professionals of a noble vocation together, promoting regional cooperation, increasing readiness and developing team work, better preparing them to fight a common enemy.”

This exercise is physically demanding and a very rewarding experience for all participants, allowing them to work together and develop supporting relationships across all departments.

"The fire department knows no boundaries, no languages ​​or borders," said Hansen, "we are all one big family working for the same purpose – fighting fires."