Soto Cano Air Base --
Joint Task Force-Bravo’s 612th Air Base Squadron hosted a new iteration of exercise CENTAM SMOKE at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras March 22 - 26, with the participation of 19 firefighters from Honduras and 5 from Costa Rica.
The Central America Sharing Mutual Operational Knowledge and Experiences exercise (CENTAM SMOKE) typically takes place twice a year, but last year’s iteration was suspended due to the ongoing pandemic. With a reduced number of participants and maintaining strict safety protocols, such as permanent use of masks, daily temperature checks and constant sanitization of equipment, the exercise was still able to provide an opportunity for all firefighters to work as a team while learning from each other’s capabilities through strenuous partnership-building challenges.
“CENTAM SMOKE has a long history of partnership. Our 612th has been conducting this exercise with partners from all across Central America for about 15 years now, strengthening our ties of friendship and cooperation,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Roberts, JTF-Bravo deputy commander.
Training this week included structural fires, vehicle extrication, aircraft fires and the famous Fire Muster challenge, where participants engage in friendly competition through an obstacle course to evaluate and test their physical conditions.
“We are conducting a refresher on our skills and learning from each other’s experiences. Camaraderie is one of the most valuable aspects of this training - to be able to get together and share our experiences, take new friendships with us and strengthen bonds of cooperation helps bring our countries together. A multicultural experience is always something good,” said Capt. Rolando Jiménez Gonzalez, Costa Rican firefighter. “I hope to bring more experience, better knowledge and the best attitude back to my unit so this opportunity is not limited to one individual but to the group.”
This training exercise is physically demanding but extremely rewarding, leading to a multiplying effect as they share the knowledge they’ve learned with their squadrons after completion. The exercise was also designed to create and strengthen professional and personal bonds by creating environments where the multinational firefighters face challenges and overcome obstacles together.
“It has been a great experience to practice with our U.S. counterparts to better prepare to serve our beloved Honduras,” said Hector Flores Carranza, a Honduran firefighter assigned to the Comayagua central station near Soto Cano Air Base. “The [612th Air Base Squadron] has great logistics, the best equipment, their staff is excellent and this is necessary in every fire station. Their knowledge is great and this makes me a better firefighter. I hope to share this with my squadron and be better prepared for any emergency. All of the participants, whether from Honduras or Costa Rica, are taking a great experience with them professionally and personally.”