NEWS | May 17, 2013

Building partnerships at CENTAM SMOKE

By Staff Sgt. Eric Donner Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Firefighters from the 612th Air Base Squadron's fire department trained with 35 firefighters from five Central American country partners here, May 6-9.

The four day Central American Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences exercise, involved firefighters from Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, allowed the firefighters a chance to train together and help build the partnerships with Joint Task Force-Bravo and the Central American countries.

"The firefighters were split into team for multiple live fire and classroom training exercises. The teams were a mixture of firefighters from all five countries," said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Smith, 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Department Fire Chief. "This helped everyone come together and build great camaraderie between the countries involved and the firefighters here."

The four day training exercise included simulated burns in a burn house as well as helicopter, car and aircraft fires. The training did not only focus on how to successfully put out fires, it also incorporated proper medical evacuation using a helicopter and basic first aid.

"The training we provided is something they will take back to their stations and share the information with other firefighters," said Staff Sgt. Craig Antonio, 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Department Fire Protection Crew Chief. "Besides us just teaching the firefighter, they brought experience to the table, which made it a mutual training opportunity.

A timed obstacle course, designed to simulate the physical exertion a firefighter would experience in an hour long firefighting operation, was part of the training week.

"Every country was competing for the fastest time in the confidence course, this made it fun," said Antonio.

The time the multi-country firefighters spent together was not all training. The teams also spent several off duty hours sharing stories and experiences.

"Everyone was honored to have the opportunity for the training and a chance to build on the partnership capacities here," said Smith. "It was evident after the graduation, many of the firefighter's exchanged numbers and email and spent hours talking in the bay."

Since 2007, Joint Task Force-Bravo has trained 730 firefighters throughout Central America.