By Senior Airman Shaun Emery, Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs
/ Published July 22, 2007
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- A task force of 26 personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo traveled to San Salvador, El Salvador, July 15-19 to conduct military-to-military training to soldiers deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During the week-long training mission, El Salvadorian soldiers were instructed on driver training, convoy and perimeter security, communications training, Improvised Explosive Device training, Civilian and Military Cooperation training and Combat Life Saver training.
At the end of the week, the soldiers were put to the test with a culmination exercise to see if they could put their new skills use in a simulated convoy attack. By the end of the training, both the members of Joint Task Force-Bravo and the El Salvadorian military learned a lot from each other.
"They are an extremely professional force," said Lt. Col. Greg Jicha, the task force commander and commander of Army Forces at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. "They go into each day of training with ambition and the desire to learn. They understand the seriousness of the situation they'll face in Iraq."
El Salvador is the only country in Central America that provides personnel to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Colonel Jose Atilio Benitez Parada, the commandant of Battalion Cuscatlan, said his country knows the pains of terrorism. During the 12-year civil war in El Salvador, the colonel said he was witness to many instances. He said he is proud to support America, one of El Salvador's brother countries.
While in Iraq, El Salvadorian soldiers will use American military equipment, so it is important they receive the training prior to deploying.
Driver's had never operated a Humvee, medics had not seen some of the life saving tools the U.S. military uses, radio operators were seeing equipment for the fist time.
"The language barrier was the only tough part for me," said Staff Sgt. David Saucer, a driver trainer. "But as far as their interest in learning about and operating the vehicle, we couldn't have asked for more."
Sergeant Saucer, Army Staff Sgt. Brian Grishaw and Army Master Sgt. Elva Marquez, went over basic preventive maintenance, and the layout of the vehicle before drivers took to the road.
As Humvees and the five-ton truck rolled by, medical personnel were busy learning the techniques that could save their fellow soldiers lives. From victim assessment to administering intravenous needles, students ran the full gamut of Combat Live Saver training. According to their medical instructors, the only thing more impressive than the skills they demonstrated was their eagerness to learn more.
"I'm so proud of this group," said Army Capt. Marta Artiga, head medical instructor. "They came to training everyday ready to take the next step. They grasped everything we taught them and were able to put it into practice.
At another site, a mass of soldiers huddled around waiting to get a chance to operate radios. One by one, they would get the chance to plug in frequencies and learn how the radio's operated. Like their fellow soldiers, the radio students were eager to learn more.
"They asked really good questions," said Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Scott, a communications instructor. "They wanted to know what kind of situations they would face in Iraq, and how to deal with them. They are a motivated group."
Soldiers learning about convoy security, perimeter security and IED's were able to show their stuff during the culmination exercise.
The exercise kicked off with the convoy getting hit with a simulated IED. From there, the convoy security troops neutralized the enemy. At the same time, medical personnel were treating wounded soldiers in the back of the five-ton truck. When the area was secure, the drivers quickly delivered the wounded to a triage center where the medical students offloaded the wounded.
At the triage station, medical students evaluated each patient, provided the necessary treatment and prepared them for evacuation.
With all the action happening around them, radio operators relayed coordinates to a simulated helicopter to provide the medical evacuation.
"The exercise was outstanding," said Colonel Jicha. "They were able to incorporate all the new skills sets we taught throughout the week. I couldn't be more pleased."
Though all the chaos of the simulated battle, transportation, medical treatment and evacuation, there was one person, running back and forth who played a special role in the exercise.
Army Staff Sgt. Edgardo Alvarez, who was there to provide linguistic support, was handed the reigns to exercise. He put together a plan and working with the other instructors, devised the best way to accommodate everyone's training needs.
"He did an outstanding job," said Colonel Jicha. "And the results were evident."
"I am very proud of these guys," said Sergeant Alvarez. "They worked hard and did their best. There are things they can work on because they can always get better, but overall they did a great job."
In the end, while members of Joint Task Force-Bravo provided the training, they learned that the El Salvadorian soldiers they may find themselves serving beside in Iraq are professional, eager to learn and this week successfully completed the task set for them.