U.S., Honduran military information exchange
By Capt. Alysia Harvey, Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs
/ Published July 13, 2007
July 13, 2007 -- A three-member team from U.S. Army South traveled here to participate in a subject matter expert exchange of information seminar on riot control and civil disturbances with 31 members of the Honduran military July 9-13.
The purpose of this event was to share concepts, tactics, and techniques in dealing with civil disobedient crowds. The participants agree the event went well and they benefited from the exchange.
"This week has gone well," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Cook, USARSO Provost Sergeant Major, who served as one of the subject matter experts for this event. "At first it was a little slow because we are teaching them different techniques, but as the week progressed they started to get it and really came together as a group. We trained as a group, but it's difficult when you are training people from the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines together when they've never worked together before."
Sergeant Major Cook went on to say it's important to understand this event was not training, but instead an exchange of information.
"We're showing them how we do things, and they are showing us how they do things," the sergeant major said, adding there is no formal training of this type within the Honduran military. "It is handled at the unit level here, and every unit does things differently. We are trying to show them one standard for all the services in hopes that they will take that back to their units."
Army Sergeant 1st Class David Barnes, the deputy chief of staff at USARO's provost marshal office, agreed with Sergeant Major Cook, but added that the most impressive thing he saw throughout the week was the initiative, enthusiasm, and professionalism of the Honduran military participants, who arrived early each day and practiced what they'd learned before the start of the day's sessions.
"That is the first time I've seen this in the last two years that I've been doing this within Central and South America and the Caribbean," said Sergeant Barnes. "It's nice to see that they are taking this so seriously because riot control techniques are very monotonous, and this week it has been really hot here. They have a lot of professionalism and took the initiative to come out here and practice, and that says a lot."
Wilmer Espinoza, a cadet and an Infantryman in the Honduran military, also agreed the exchange went well, saying he and the other Honduran participants learned a lot.
"The most important thing we learned were the ideas they shared with us during the lectures," said Cadet Espinoza. "This exchange really took away a lot of doubts because we do a lot of these things in theory, but here we were able to put them together and it really made sense. This helps reinforce our confidence when we have to make a decision to do something because the techniques we've learned are how we will respond in a real-world situation."
He went on to say the cultural exchange was also really beneficial.
"Some of the soldiers here have never had the opportunity to train with soldiers from other nations, so we value this experience," he said. "It's also good that we get to observe the interaction between U.S. officers and NCOs because that helps our military as well."
Sergeant Barnes shared Cadet Espinoza's sentiments, saying the exchange benefits both the U.S. and Honduras because of the shared knowledge and experiences.
"The host nation learns some techniques that may be different than the ones they employ," said Sergeant Barnes. "We are not saying our way is the best way, but hopefully they can take what we brought, combine it with what they do, and come up with the best way to protect themselves and the citizens of Honduras. The U.S. benefits from this because we build partnerships that ultimately serve to protect all Americans."
The participants held their closing ceremony July 13 at the base theatre here, receiving certificates of recognition for having participated in this information exchange.
This is training is funded by U.S. Army South, and according Sergeant Major Cook, there are two more events like this one that are scheduled for fiscal 2008.