NEWS | Aug. 28, 2013

All 7 Central American countries train at CENTAM Smoke

By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jarrod Chavana Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs Office

Joint Task Force-Bravo is hosting the Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences (CENTAM Smoke) Exercise here Aug. 26-29 and for the first time all seven nations are present.

JTF-Bravo firefighters will train alongside Hondurans, Belizeans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Panamanians and Nicaraguans partner nation firefighters allowing the U.S. and Central America firefighters four days of team-building exercises.

"Our purpose is to conduct coalition firefighter training with the seven CENTAM nations," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas D. Boccardi, JTF-Bravo commander. "At the end of this exercise we hope to share each other's knowledge in the latest firefighting techniques and increase our overall capacity."

The training consisted of safety, personal protective equipment, apparatus familiarization, fire hose applications, structural/car/helicopter/aircraft live fire evolutions, and medical training.

"We have two aspects we are trying to instill one is to give them expert training in the fundamentals of firefighting and fire protection," said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Smith, 612 Air Base fire chief. "Our secondary goal is to provide training techniques they can take back with them and provide to other firefighters in their country."

During the four -day course the firefighters will have classroom instruction and hands on training in structural fires, which include; a building, vehicle, helicopter an aircraft as well as an obstacle course.

"When I came here I expected the training to be easier, but it's been really tough," said Mr. Manuel Tarasena, a Guatemalan firefighter. "The obstacle course was the most challenging, as it was the most demanding, you had to drag the hoses, pull the dummy, and run with the Jaws of Life. The overall training is excellent and I can't wait to take back what I've learned."

During the obstacle course the firefighters wore their fire retardant uniforms and 30 pound oxygen tanks as they maneuvered around the course performing task such as running up two flights of stairs carrying a bundled-up fire hose and dragging a 175 pound dummy more than 25 yards.

"Some of the things these firefighters enjoyed most is our instructors, who are guiding them through the obstacles," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Diaz, 612th Air base fire marshal. "Our hope is that they will take this training back to their fire departments and create safety programs, which is similar to what they learned here."

The primary objective of the exercise 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.