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News | Sept. 7, 2021

U.S., Central American firefighters train for fire emergencies together

By Maria Pinel Public Affairs, Joint Task Force-Bravo

U.S. Air Force firefighters with the 612th Air base Squadron, based out of Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, hosted another iteration of CENTAM SMOKE, a five-day multinational firefighting training exercise August 23-27.

Five Costa Rican, five Guatemalan and 15 Honduran firefighters worked side by side with U.S. Air Force counterparts to hone safety practices, structural and helicopter fire suppression techniques, vehicle extrication and aircraft familiarization.

The 612th Fire and Emergency Services led a week-long engagement that built professional and personal firefighter relationships through the sharing of operational knowledge.

“The importance of this training event is to promote peace, growth, and stability throughout Central America,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Justin Stanley, assistant chief of fire prevention with the 612th. “The goal is to strengthen our partnerships in the region by increasing skills, knowledge, and capabilities through realistic training scenarios, and by training with our neighboring partners we are also increasing our joint interoperability.”

CENTAM SMOKE stands for Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences and provides an opportunity for all firefighters to work as a team and build relationships among partner nations. The event concluded with a graduation ceremony where participants were presented certificates for their hard work.

“I’m very proud to be here and share with all my counterparts from Honduras, Guatemala and the U.S. Air Force. It has helped us strengthen our knowledge and we have learned new rescue techniques,” said Lt. Jose Retana, firefighter with the Costa Rican Fire Department. “We will all take what we learned back to our country to serve our communities. Thank you to the instructors and the other participants for your effort, your support and your discipline.”

The exercise aims to develop team building and cooperation skills, as well as improve partner nation firefighting capabilities and disaster response coordination within the region to be able to rapidly respond to a crisis together as one team.

The 612th Air Base Squadron provides air base support to Joint Task Force-Bravo operations and 12th Air Force including air traffic control, logistics, base civil engineering, fire department, airfield operations and personnel functions.