Brazil Helps Guatemalan Army Strengthen Teaching Efforts in Humanitarian Aid, Rescue
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 10, 2016The Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) is helping the Guatemalan Army and other national rescue units assemble the first group of instructors in teaching methods and techniques for emergency and natural disaster response. The training will help improve the work of humanitarian aid and rescue units. A team of 10 service members from the Guatemalan Army's Humanitarian and Rescue Unit (UHR, for its Spanish acronym), along with the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, firefighters, and other national relief agencies participated in the two-week training that took place at the UHR facilities in the La Aurora Central Air Command, in Guatemala City. In an interview with Diálogo, Infantry Colonel Osman Roel Gaitán Monzón, commander of the Guatemalan Army's UHR said, “The main objective of this first training is to prepare a group of instructors from the UHR and from the various rescue organizations to be ‘multipliers’ of direct and indirect response methods and techniques, passing along their knowledge in order to strengthen humanitarian aid and rescue efforts during emergencies.” Four members of the Brazilian Army's Fire Department, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Sangaletti, taught various teaching methods to soldiers from the UHR and rescue personnel. The participants learned teaching and lesson planning, as well as evaluation techniques. Soldiers and rescue personnel were chosen for their experience and knowledge in rescue missions and humanitarian aid. They will share what they learned with the nine civil-affairs and humanitarian-aid detachments that are deployed in various Guatemalan Army Brigades throughout the country. The participants will be certified as instructors after passing the training course, which took place in June and continues through August and October. "This is the first opportunity we have had to become certified in teaching techniques by a foreign agency," Col. Gaitán said. The ABC is tasked with negotiating, coordinating, executing, and supervising technical cooperation programs and projects in Brazil. According to its website, the agency contributes to training and skill development geared toward the promotion and exchange of innovative experiences and best practices between Brazil and other Latin American countries. "This type of cooperation allows us to exchange experiences and knowledge, as well as to improve our response in serving the demands of the population during natural disaster emergencies such as landslides, floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related phenomena," said Col. Gaitán. "It will also strengthen the training method of the UHR, which instructs other Army units and government bodies, and it will strengthen bonds of friendship and cooperation with Brazil." In contrast to other Guatemalan rescue groups, the UHR is a specialized, highly mobile Army unit with a battalion level structure, which has the capacity to operate during large-scale disasters. As a member of the Conference of Central American Armed Forces, the command also assists other countries in need of its help, according to a July 2nd, 2013 Diálogo report. Guatemala is concerned about training and equipping its various Armed Forces units to effectively react to their assigned missions. To save and protect people's lives and reduce the effects of natural disasters, the UHR has received training and education from Brazil, the United States, Canada, Argentina, and other Central American countries. For example, UHR personnel took the Hazardous Materials Handling Course, which was taught by Arkansas National Guard members, in the facilities of the Guatemalan Army Corps of Engineers, according to a Guatemalan Ministry of Defense report. "A team of six officers from the Arkansas National Guard carried out the second phase of this training during the second week of July. A total of 35 Army officers, 20 of whom are from the UHR, were trained on the handling and storage of chemical precursors," Col. Gaitán said. "Thanks to the professionalism of our personnel and the training we have received from partner nations, we have been able to integrate well with the various national and international government institutions, enabling us to cooperate and contribute in any emergency or assignment," added the Colonel. Guatemala’s UHR has provided technical consulting on recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of affected areas in international missions such as on April 16th in Ecuador, when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Andean nation; a search-and-rescue mission in El Salvador for those affected by Hurricane Ida in 2009; and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and mudslide in Costa Rica. According to the most recent World Risk Index, Guatemala is the fourth most vulnerable country to natural disasters. Because of its location, there are many landslides, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, for which the UHR is trained in search and rescue for various structures and in first aid, as well as in needs analysis for operation in any type of terrain and meteorological conditions, among other capabilities. "It is important to have the best-trained rescue units possible," said Sandino Asturias, director of the Center for Guatemala Studies. "The goal for Guatemala is for all of these needed trainings to be permanently institutionalized to enhance the success of the missions assigned to the relief units."