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News | June 13, 2022

Sentinel Watch prepares Guatemala and U.S. military for regional disasters

By Maria Pinel JTF-Bravo Public Affairs

Personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo, the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA), the Guatemalan National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) and Guatemalan military representatives conducted a two-day humanitarian assistance and disaster relief tabletop exercise, Sentinel Watch, June 8-9.

Participants included logistics, aviation, operations and civil-military operations experts from the Guatemalan military, working together with U.S. military personnel, under the direction of CONRED and BHA, to fine tune processes during a time of calm.

“It’s very important that we work together to understand each other’s capabilities in a time where we can address these regional challenges together, or even go back and review past actions to make them better,” said U.S. Army Col. Steven Gventer, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander.

The exercise involved combined teams of experts working through a scenario based on tropical storm Agatha, which severely affected Guatemala in 2010. U.S. and Guatemalan counterparts integrated and discussed their standard operating procedures to learn more about how to operate together if a complex emergency or disaster were to happen and would necessitate international assistance.

As the lead federal agency for U.S. cooperation during a disaster, JTF-Bravo would operate under the direction of USAID/BHA after the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala declares a disaster. USAID/BHA would then assess and determine if the emergency is complex and would require assistance from the Department of Defense – in which case, JTF-Bravo would be called upon to respond.

“I’m impressed with JTF-Bravo for taking the steps forward to bring us all together. We can discuss how we operate individually as governments and as different entities so we can understand each other, and hopefully in an event this will help to mitigate the chaos of that destruction scenario,” said Jennifer Glossinger, USAID/BHA representative.

The scenario included injects of different situations that would affect and complicate the scenario as well as a discussion of lessons learned from past emergencies and JTF-Bravo responses in the region.
After completing the exercise, teams are now more familiar with how each organization operates, where each would be staged depending on the emergency, how to communicate and who to coordinate with.

“We are very pleased to have JTF-Bravo here in Guatemala and we are aware that these activities help us evaluate how we can respond together,” said retired Gen. Oscar Cossío, executive secretary of CONRED.
General Cossío also recalled the recent participation of both Guatemalan responders and JTF-Bravo in the recent regional drill led by the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Disasters in Central America and the Dominican Republic (CEPREDENAC) that took place in Guatemala earlier this year.

“It’s better to have a drop of sweat during training, than a drop of blood during combat, or in this case, during a disaster response,” said secretary Cossío.

As the U.S. Southern Command’s regional presence, and due to its strategic location at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, JTF-Bravo is committed to supporting partners when disasters happen, responding rapidly in support of USAID/BHA with unique capabilities and personnel to save lives.

“Exercises like these are very important to bring us together. I hope that through this exercise we’ve been able to build not only the relationship, but the understanding and the trust, to be able to execute in a time of need,” said Col. Gventer.