Honduras’ Military Industry Produces Quality Gear and Provides Job Opportunities
By Dialogo September 25, 2015I am a tailor certified by INFOP to make pants and I wish to be employed in the military industry to be able to serve
If you see a man or woman in uniform in Honduras —whether a member of the Armed Forces, the National Police, the Fire Department, or the Permanent Commission on Contingencies (COPECO)— they are wearing gear manufactured by the country's Military Industry, from their boots to their nameplates and hats.
The spectacular fireworks set off to celebrate the country's September 15th independence anniversary? Made by the Military industry as well.
The Military Industry of the Honduran Armed Forces (IMFAA) produces more than 500 products, supplying the official clothing for every branch of the armed forces in addition to a wide range of goods made available to the civilian population at significantly lower prices than those found in the market.
“We make all the uniforms of the Armed Forces and we have agreements with many government institutions -- we make uniforms for the health sector, for Social Security, for the Red Cross and the National Autonomous University, but part of our production is available to civilians,” said Colonel of War Materiel José Antonio Rodríguez, the industry’s assistant manager.
Clothes for schoolchildren
“Every year we participate in school fairs, offering shoes for children, so parents have more affordable options for their children. Our shoes are less expensive, but also higher quality. Kids play soccer with rocks and the shoe endures. They have long durability.”
The Military Industry does not make school uniforms on a regular basis, but it does produce all the uniforms for a school with a Military-style education. The IMFAA also manufactures uniforms for a group of children who receive first aid training from the Fire Department every Saturday, according to Lieutenant Colonel
Héctor Ayala Barahona, who directs the sales department of the IMFAA.
One of the buyers of IMFAA products, Carmen Julia Cerrato, went to the Military Industry’s campus store to purchase one of those uniforms for her 12-year old son Bryan Guerra. “I come all the way here for it because it is better quality, otherwise I could easily have had his uniform made by a seamstress near to where I live,” she explained.
Serving consumers and workers
The IMFAA serves consumers like Cerrato and also provides opportunities for workers -- some of whom are disabled -- who produce its products.
“We aim to provide a service to society in more than one way,” Col. Rodriguez said. “We currently employ a blind person, two men bound in wheelchairs, deaf persons, and others who use crutches. The majority of our personnel are women, many of which are single moms, too.”
The IMFAA's manufacturing plants are located in pine tree-lined mountains, approximately 40 minutes away from Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa, in a village called Las Tapias, shortly past the Military Hospital and the First Infantry Battalion. When Diálogo
visited recently, the buildings were abuzz with chatter, the sound of sowing machines, hammers coming down, and the tunes of Mexican crooner Joan Sebastian adding to the festive atmosphere.
In a corner of the shoe plant, Mauricio Flores Guerra quietly inserted and clamped “breathers” into the side portions of Military boots with skill and ease. In spite of having lost his eyesight in his childhood, Guerra acquired his riveting skills in the nine years since he started working there. The Military Industry helped him recover his bearings and his independence. Now married with three daughters, his blindness is an afterthought.
“When I got here I overcame all the obstacles. This is the way God has provided for me and the sustenance of my family.”
Ruth Alejandra Gómez is one of the three industrial engineers who head the plants that produce shoes and clothing and where workers weave products. She has worked in the Military Industry for 10 years.
“The leadership’s vision is to work with the strengths of a person; we consider that a disability is not incapacitating. We place them in positions where they can feel comfortable and production is not affected. They tried to find employment in other parts and were not successful. Thankfully they found the support they needed here.”
Furthermore, Gómez added, “we employ people of all ages, because age discrimination is also an issue. Our youngest employee is 19, and our oldest ones surpass 60.”
Producing a wide array of products
The Honduran Armed Forces Military Industry was created in 1979. In the 36 years since its inception, it has grown into a first-rate manufacturer of varied goods: Military daily wear, gala and sports uniforms; boots, shoes, Military bags, gun holsters, insignia, vests, belts, jackets, flags, caps, gloves, and engraved accessories.
The IMFAA has maintained the high quality of its production by updating its equipment and using high-quality raw materials, which don’t shrink or loose their color by exposure to sunlight, in the case of clothes; or with reliable traction in the case of shoes, to name a few qualities. In the future, “we will start working with metals,” says Col. Rodríguez. “There have been talks of assigning us the production of license plates to reduce a delay in that area.”