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News | June 4, 2024

CENTAM Guardian 24 begins Phase II

By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shelby Pruitt-Johnson Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

An opening ceremony was held at the Crowne Plaza San Jose la Sabana to signify the official start of CENTAM Guardian 24 Phase II at San Jose, Costa Rica, June 3, 2024.

The U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise is the final part of a two-phased, annual multi-national partnership-building exercise designed to build capacity and capabilities with Central American partner nations.

Eight nations are participating in Phase II including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia and the U.S. with over 400 participants.

A photo of a large room filled with people facing a person speaking on stage at a podium.
CENTAM Guardian 24 begins Phase II
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig McPike, U.S. Southern Command Reserve Director, provides remarks during the opening ceremony for CENTAM Guardian 24 Phase II at San Jose, Costa Rica, June 3, 2024. Eight nations are participating in the exercise including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia and the U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shelby Pruitt-Johnson)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shelby Pruitt-Johnson
VIRIN: 240513-F-GC389-0373

These participants will be learning and practicing processes and techniques for urban search and rescue; firefighting; geospatial mapping; field hospital setup and operations; Civil Affairs; aerial assessments, reconnaissance and casualty evacuation; and communication support and repair.

“CENTAM Guardian will test our ability in responding to complex problem sets, and the challenges we share during our exercise create a shared understanding in crisis,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig McPike, USSOUTHCOM Reserve director. “It’s not a matter of whether a major disaster will hit — it’s a matter of when and we must be prepared.”

McPike represented USSOUTHCOM and provided remarks to the audience during the opening ceremony of Phase II.

Phase II focuses on combined humanitarian assistance and disaster response through a tabletop portion and a field training exercise hosted by Costa Rica.

The ceremony also included a panel of key personnel in public safety fields throughout Costa Rica, including Walter Fonseca Bonilla, the Director of Operations for the Costa Rica Center of National Emergencies.

“We are going to take advantage of the experience and knowledge exchanges going on this week and hope to build a plan to better respond to emergencies,” said Bonilla. 

A photo of a man standing at a podium speaking.
CENTAM Guardian 24 begins Phase II
Walter Fonseca Bonilla, Costa Rica Center of National Emergencies Director of Operations, provides opening remarks during the opening ceremony for CENTAM Guardian 24 Phase II at San Jose, Costa Rica, June 3, 2024. CENTAM Guardian 24 is a two-phased, annual multi-national partnership-building exercise designed to build capacity and capabilities with current Central America partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shelby Pruitt-Johnson)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shelby Pruitt-Johnson
VIRIN: 240513-F-GC389-0342

Alejandro Picardo Eduarte, the President of the Costa Rica Center of National Emergencies, followed with his remarks by thanking each organization for their heroism and emphasizing CNE’s purpose in participation.

“This exercise will help us identify gaps and weaknesses in our procedures and create opportunities to learn and improve our skills,” he said.

Exercises such as CENTAM Guardian demonstrate the increasing importance of professional relationships and efficient operations between the U.S. and Central American countries, where the timely arrival of humanitarian assistance can make the difference between life and death.

It is one of several exercises incorporated under the Joint Staff-Large Scale Global Exercise 2024 to highlight thirty-two exercises across multiple commands that are designed to strengthen agility and interoperability with Allies and partners.

“These forthcoming two weeks provide a challenging and realistic training environment, as like-minded partners work shoulder to shoulder and collaborate on security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” said McPike. “Because of our collective commitment and investment in cooperation, collaboration and interoperability; we can deploy anytime to any place – together.”

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