Diálogo visited the installations of Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) in Honduras to interview their commander, U.S. Army Colonel Steven E. Gventer.
Diálogo: What are your goals as JTF-Bravo commander?
U.S. Army Colonel Steven Gventer, JFT-Bravo commander: My goal is to ensure that, coming out of COVID-19, we build a climate that is very positive, a place where our members feel valued and have the opportunity to grow, both in their own personal space and in their careers. They can gain experience at their jobs, but also have primetime to build relationships and contribute to the region.
As far as the broader picture of where we want the organization to go, on the training and mission accomplishment, we have the responsibility to train, resource, and certify or validate our capabilities as JTF-Bravo. One of our goals is to conduct operations in support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which for us includes the ability to conduct humanitarian aid and disaster response in our region, as we want to be the partner that everyone trusts and to be the team they know will come to their aid.
We are the 40th Command of JTF-Bravo. We look at this as a team with responsibility to prepare and execute, but also it has responsibilities toward the next teams. What the Sergeant Major and I are really trying to do as a task force is to ensure that when we go out — our soldiers, airmen, mariners, and guardians on the ground working with our partner nations — that they understand they are there to support a good face for the United States with all of the people in the region.
Diálogo: What is the importance of JTF-Bravo’s global health engagements?
Col. Gventer: Our global health engagements allow us to provide an outreach across the operating area and all throughout SOUTHCOM, as we did recently with Colombia. We can provide state of the art medical expertise as we have people trained in the most current capabilities to work with and provide both health care and training to local health officials and providers.
Diálogo: Are there new joint training techniques in disaster response readiness with partner nations?
Col. Gventer: We work very closely with the local and national authorities and their disaster relief capabilities. We magnify our relationship with them when we build trust by doing tabletop exercises together, where we present a scenario very similar to hurricanes Iota and Eta, and work through that scenario with them. We know, when we are on the ground in a crisis, they will be in the lead, and we will be in support; we are here as guests, and we are here to ensure that we are always their partner of choice.
Diálogo: What are the lessons learned from last year’s response to hurricanes Eta and Iota?
Col. Gventer: One of the lessons learned was to establish a progression and a training capacity internal to us with both national health organizations here and our embassies, as well as SOUTHCOM components. One thing which was really learned is that we cannot just wait until the event to execute. We have to try to get ahead of that crisis by doing everything we can to understand our capacity. It is everything from building a load plan that will go into a helicopter, how much gear you can fit in a helicopter, how many people have to go first, and what that looks like. We are looking into doing a large exercise for the task force in Belize to simulate a very large crisis with humanitarian aid disaster response.
Diálogo: What has been the impact of what you have been doing during COVID-19?
Col. Gventer: We supported 46 donations from Civil Affairs projects — medical supplies through Humanitarian Assistance Program — that was valued at more than $500,000 last year . We conducted assistance projects and the team donated their own money and time to carry food and other products to small villages out in Honduras and Guatemala. We sponsored orphanages throughout the region as we identify things that we can do to assist them with their offices and the school areas for their children. There are also larger projects that we supported and helped with our engineers, from helping schools putting up a project that captures fresh water, to helping hospitals with our medical capability and training.