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Unique training empowers AFSOUTH Airmen to strengthen partner capacity

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs (Western Hemisphere), Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., got an up close and personal look at the job of the firefighters from Joint Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Jan. 13, 2014. Gersten donned fire protective gear and joined the firefighters during a live-burn training exercise in the Soto Cano Air Base "burn house," during which the firefighters were able to demonstrate for the General the tactics used to combat fires.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

Firefighters from Join Task Force-Bravo's 612th Air Base Squadron battle flames during a live-burn training exercise at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Jan. 13, 2014. Twelve members of the 612 ABS will become the first group in their squadron qualified to provide partner nation firefighting training, after a Mobile Training Team event scheduled for Sept. 15-19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- Eleven firefighters and one civil engineer from the 612th Air Base Squadron at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras will become the first group in their squadron qualified to provide partner nation firefighting training, after a Mobile Training Team event scheduled for Sept. 15-19.

The Air Advisor Academy sponsored MTT engagement, which will focus heavily on cross-cultural communication, is the first of its kind for 612 ABS members.

Lt. Col. Sergio Vega, 612 ABS Commander, explained that the upcoming MTT will qualify 12 of his personnel charged with joint U.S. and Central American partner nation firefighting training.

"Having trained Airmen with the skill sets to train partner nations is crucial," Vega said. "The 612 Air Base Squadron has recently been assigned the Air Advisor mission and with this new mission comes required skill sets. The Air Advisor Academy will travel to Soto Cano, Honduras and train the first cadre of Air Advisors within the squadron, enabling the squadron to perform its first Air Advising training in the future months."

Vital training engagements such as this prepare Airmen both professionally and personally to engage with and train their partner nation counterparts, according to Lt. Col. Kaylin Haywood, Air Advisor Academy Vice Commandant.

"The AAA instructors will provide the firefighters relevant, flexible education and training to prepare and motivate them to apply their expertise to assess, train, advise, assist and equip their partners," Haywood said. "The firefighters will learn the skills of an Air Advisor, so in their roles as warrior diplomats they can better engage the foreign nationals to execute their mission. These warrior diplomats will learn about the region and the culture, enhancing their ability to relate to counterparts and to conduct cross-cultural communication and negotiations."

When it comes to partner nation engagements, understanding each others' cultural backgrounds and worldviews is just as important as being able to impart technical skill sets, Haywood explained.

"Understanding the worldview of the firefighters from other nations makes it easier to train them, because instruction methods can be tailored to ensure understanding," Haywood said. "AAA will also provide in-depth coverage of the customs and social behavior of the partner nation. A solid understanding of these areas enhances the working relationship between our nations."

Ultimately, the MTT will provide 612 ABS personnel with the tools they need to make future partner nation engagements possible.

"[The objective is] to train the trainers," Vega said. "To build upon Air Advisor successes and empower our Airmen in the crucial role in building partner capacity, demonstrating our commitment to assisting in the development of partner countries' capabilities to address regional security and shared responsibilities in fostering peace and security."

Haywood anticipates the AAA MTT will leave the 612 ABS participants fully prepared to effectively engage with their partner nation counterparts.

"At the end of the week, the 612 ABS firefighters will get it and will stand shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts, further improving our nations' relationships and building U.S. partner capacity," Haywood said.

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