Tegucigalpa, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo, in coordination with COPECO, representatives of the Honduran Armed Forces, governmental and cooperating entities in Honduras, and the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/BHA), conducted a joint exercise in Tegucigalpa to improve disaster response coordination, June 22-23.
The exercise called ¨Sentinel Watch¨ is a tabletop exercise led by JTF-Bravo, based on past events that have affected the Central American region, and tailored specifically to each nation. For Honduras, the exercise was based on the 1974 Fifi-Orlene hurricane, the third deadliest hurricane to hit the region.
"Today we have conducted a simulation exercise whose lessons learned will prepare us for a real response within the theater of operations. We would like to thank all the institutions and agencies that are part of the National Risk Management System, SINAGER, for their direct collaboration and for being here today," said Mr. Ramon Soto, Minister of COPECO.
The minister of COPECO also expressed his interest in conducting a national drill, similar to the one carried out by the Coordination Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America and the Dominican Republic (CEPREDENAC) in Guatemala earlier this year, which also included representatives from JTF-Bravo, and highlighted the U.S. Southern Command’s cooperation efforts, including the donation of a mobile operations center to support emergencies.
"This has been a valuable experience since everything we are doing right now is aimed at conducting a nationwide drill. We appreciate all the cooperation in logistics and preparedness situations that COPECO personnel have received to better respond to emergencies," said Minister Soto.
During his closing remarks, the JTF-Bravo commander also highlighted the progress the exercise has made since its inception last year and the importance if building trust in times of calm.
" I was fortunate enough that I was here last year when we conducted the first of these exercises and I am very proud to see how far it has come and how much it has grown," said U.S. Army Col. Steven Gventer, commander of JTF-Bravo. "Central America is a region that is very vulnerable to natural disasters and our joint exercises prepare us for real response. What is different for us here is that we are your neighbors from Comayagua, and if an emergency should happen, we will be there for you because we will also live through it with you. Minister Soto, thank you for having us here in COPECO."
So far this year, Sentinel Watch has been conducted in Guatemala and Honduras, with this being the second iteration. The exercise will also be conducted in Panama and El Salvador in July to increase coordination during a complex emergency, improving response capabilities and trust throughout the region.