NEWS | Aug. 16, 2011

CENTAM SMOKE ignites at Honduras

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

Firefighters from the 612th Air Base Squadron's fire department began training alongside Honduran and Costa Rican firefighters here, Aug 15.

The exercise, called Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences, or CENTAM SMOKE, allows multi-national firefighters four days of team-building exercises Aug 15 -18.

"It's cool to see Honduran and Costa Rican firefighters learning something new and it's great to be a part of it," said Senior Airmen Jarrod Abernathy, 612th ABS firefighter.

The firefighter training includes a timed obstacle course where they wear 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."

The American firefighters are training 28 Honduran and 10 Costa Rican firefighters on 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 firefighters receive pointers from their counterparts as they extinguished flames from a mock helicopter, car and airplane on the flightline.

"Some of them are familiar with this training but for others it's their first training of this kind," said Senior Master Sgt. Steve Brooks, Civil Engineering superintendent. "If they take what they learn here back to their stations it will definitely help them."

The firefighters will also have time to converse in other non-training settings.

"We had an Icebreaker last night and ate dinner together, Senior Master Sgt. Brooks said. "The cooperation during the events has been really good so far and the firefighters will have an opportunity to learn much during this week."

Mauricio Alvarez, a firefighter form Costa Rica, is eager to learn as a first-time CENTAM SMOKE participant.

"I'm thankful to learn and appreciate what the Americans are teaching us," Mr. Alvarez said. "It's interesting because at Costa Rica we do things differently and should benefit from this training. Working with the Americans is a pleasure; It doesn't feel like military, it feels more like a brotherhood of firefighters."