Joint Task Force Bravo’s (JTF-Bravo) 612th Air Squadron Fire Department conducted a new iteration of the Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experience (CENTAM SMOKE) exercise at Soto Cano Air Base in Comayagua, Honduras. Firefighters from Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama attended the training, March 28-April 1, 2022.
Thirty five participants (32 men and three women) took part in the training, where experienced and novice firefighters learned and strengthened their knowledge and skills.
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Dan Linares, who led CENTAM SMOKE, told Diálogo that the exercises were aimed at controlling structural and aircraft fire and carrying out vehicle extrication and low angle rescues.
“There are some things we do differently [than some fire departments] and so we have shared our techniques, our methods, and it has been very enriching,” Mauricio Monge, in charge of the Costa Rican Fire Department’s Bagaces fire station told Diálogo. “Standardization is the objective, so that all firefighters in Central America have the same capacity and knowledge, and in an emergency, we will be able to respond with speed.”
Challenges to overcome
For Honduran Air Force Security Police Officer Eslyn Guerrero Nolasco the training was enriching. “I have learned many things I didn’t know; how to help a person who is trapped in a car; how to enter a structure to put out a fire; and how to rescue a person when they are on a cliff,” she told Diálogo.
For Guerrero and the other two women (all from the Honduran team) who took the course, a positive state of mind was key to carrying out all the exercises, and although “the men have a little more strength, you also have to show that you can do it as well. It’s all in the mind and [knowing] that you can do it,” she said.
“The experience strengthened bonds of friendship and cooperation,” Raymond Murray, a firefighter with the Belize National Fire Service, told Diálogo. “Although the exercises were different from what I’m used to in my country, I found the atmosphere very friendly.”
Murray has been a firefighter for five years and looks forward to other training that he can share with his peers. “I would like this to be something that repeats every three months,” he said enthusiastically of the biannual exercise.