NEWS | Sept. 23, 2014

Specialized training enables AF firefighters to build partner nation relations

By Capt. Steven Stubbs Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Twelve members from the 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Emergency Services completed the Air Advisor Academy 5-day academic Mobile Training Team course Sept. 15-19 to become the first group to receive air advisor training qualified to provide partner nation firefighting training.

The Air Advisor training supplied the Airmen with a broad picture of building cooperative relations with their Central American counterparts.  This included for example, how to effectively communicate in a cross-cultural environment, how to best use interpreters, and how to conduct media relations.  The course culminated with classes discussing specific information about El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama whom they will be teaching during these missions.

"We received a general overview of some of their culture and deep rooted ancestry," U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Janczewski, 612 ABS Fire Emergency Services deputy fire chief, said.  "This training will allow us to relate better, on a deeper level, with our partner nations.  Having more insight into what motivates them or knowing them on a more personal level enables us to better get the training across to the attendees."

This week-long course empowers the 612th firefighters to conduct the Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences (CENTAM S.M.O.K.E.) exercises. CENTAM S.M.O.K.E provides the partner nation firefighters with training in safety, personal protective equipment, apparatus familiarization, fire hose applications, structural/car/helicopter/ aircraft live fire evolutions, and medical training.

"These firefighters are already experts in their field.  They come to the fight with all the skills and abilities," said U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Cabosky, the Air Advisor Academy commandant.  "What our training does is give them a little broader perspective and make them ambassadors of the United States during their upcoming exercises."

Having already spent 6 months in South America on a previous deployment, U.S. Air Force Capt. Clemente Berrios, 612 ABS civil engineer, can vouch for the positive impact they can have on the partner nations. "CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is perfect for providing our mission partners with the necessary skills to become more efficient at firefighting.  It allows us to work hand-in-hand with the other Central American countries and promote unity through training."

Ultimately, the Mobile Training Team provided 612 ABS personnel with the tools they need to make future partner nation engagements possible.

"[The objective is] to train the trainers," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Sergio Vega, 612th Air Base Squadron commander. "To build upon Air Advisor successes and empower our Airmen in the crucial role in building partner capacity, demonstrating our commitment to assisting in the development of partner countries' capabilities to address regional security and shared responsibilities in fostering peace and security."

According to Janczewski, the ultimate goal of CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is to improve upon the skillsets that the CENTAM partners already have.

"Training is a quintessential part of what it takes to be a firefighter.  It's gaining that muscle memory to be able to accomplish a task in a high stress environment, such as being in a structure or aircraft fire, without having to think about it.  That will allow you to focus on other variables and keep you and your team safe.  The more we practice and hone our skills, the more mission effective we become."

The primary objective of CENTAM S.M.O.K.E. is to foster a strong professional relationship with partner nation firefighting personnel by promoting dialogue, improving information sharing as well as refining existing tactics, techniques, and procedures. Since 2007, Joint Task Force-Bravo has trained more than 800 firefighters from all Central American countries.