Hurricanes Iota and Eta struck Central America hard in less than two weeks, leaving a trail of destruction and death in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. Currently, Iota is leaving Nicaragua toward Honduras, with tropical storm force.
U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) is in the area to provide humanitarian assistance, in a joint effort with governments in the region, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Blanton told Voice of America.
JTF-Bravo is stationed at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, a forward-deployed facility able to withstand any sort of weather and capable of hosting a variety of aircraft.
At that location, Lt. Col. Blanton, the group’s chief of staff, said in an interview with Voice of America that, following Hurricane Eta, they were able to help the governments of Honduras, Panama, and Guatemala in search and rescue operations and in transporting personnel and materials in regions that were cut off following the hurricane.
“We basically work with our partners to reach the most affected areas and victims, this time [together] with Honduras, Panama, and Guatemala as an additional force in relief efforts. This has been a challenging time for our partners, and we are here to help, as the mission allows,” Lt. Col. Blanton said.
With Iota’s imminent strike, which is expected to reach Honduras as a tropical storm, the force, which had deployed to Panama and Guatemala, returned to Honduras for the preparation phase. Lt. Col. Blanton stressed that the group is ready to help under the direction of SOUTHCOM, to which JTF-Bravo responds.
JTF-Bravo’s mission is to support U.S. government agencies and national authorities in the Central American area of operations, an area affected by hurricanes.
Due to the great devastation, Lt. Col. Blanton said that “it is a difficult time for the countries hit by the hurricane,” and he added that his forces “are ready to respond quickly to any emergency.”
“We train and we prepare. That’s why we are ready. This is an incredible team, and we are very proud of the national governments, their emergency departments, and their armed forces,” Lt. Col. Blanton said. “And we are also proud of our men and women in Joint Task Force Bravo.”
“Southern Command and the United States continue to be trusted friends and partners in this region,” Lt. Col. Blanton said as he concluded the interview with Voice of America.
JTF-Bravo has provided assistance in the region for 40 years with operations against transnational organized crime, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.