SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
The sun blazed as a cool breeze cut through the warmth here, while friends and family members of civilian employees gathered to celebrate Foreign Service National Family Day on Oct. 22.
The day honored all civilian employees and paid homage to their families by treating them to a guided tour of the base and lunch prepared and served by members of Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"It is important to have the families see what their parents and relatives do here," said Coronel Wilfredo Reyes, the Honduran Air Force commander and HAF Academy commandant, in his opening remarks. "It's an honor to show support for the men and women who provide the continuity to keep the base running and the mission a success."
After the opening ceremony, participants boarded buses and were transported to various units for guided tours. The first stop was the Honduran Air Force Academy. The tour began in the library/computer lab where the cadets spend most of their time studying and holding meetings. From there, visitors saw classrooms, received an up-close view of various fighter planes, bi-wing planes and a helicopter, and even spent some time being entertained by the Academy's two toucan bird mascots.
The next stop was the 612th Air Base Squadron fire department. Children and adults sat in fire trucks, dodged streams of water shooting from the truck's water cannons and witnessed firefighters demonstrate their protective equipment.
A final stop at the 1-228th Aviation Regiment featured CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Eight-year-old Cecilia Cruz, daughter of Jose Cruz, the warehouse manager for the billeting office, said upon sitting in the cockpit of one of the Black Hawks, "One of my dreams is to fly one of these."
Though none of the visitors flew any aircraft, children "flew" Frisbees during lunch time. They also tossed around an American football and participated in races such as the "three-leg" and "wheelbarrow" as the smell of hamburgers and barbecued chicken filled the air.
Between bites of french-fries, 15-year-old Jessica Amariva, daughter of Blanca Amariva, the 612th ABS commander's secretary, admitted this wasn't her first visit.
"I come here all the time," she said. "The base doesn't change much, but the people do."
When lunch concluded, everyone gathered in the Cabana to honor those with 10, 15 and 20 years of service. The honorees received certificates and commemorative pins celebrating their accomplishments. Col. Gregory Reilly, the JTF-B commander, vowed that the event would be held on a regular basis so that no one would go unrecognized for their dedication, hard work and sacrifice to the success of the mission.
"Family Day is a significant event, as the purpose is to recognize the hard work of our FSNs who make up a big part of our team," Colonel Reilly said.