MIL-OSI Security: Disaster Preparedness with El Salvador

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Source: United States SOUTHERN COMMAND

Joint Task Force-Bravo and U.S. Agency for International Development along with 25 participates from El Salvador’s Civil Protection, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Works, Red Cross, National Police, firefighters, and more from emergency services came together for exercise Sentinel Watch at the El Salvador General Directorate of Civil Protection in Nejapa, El Salvador, May 21-22, 2024.

Sentinel Watch is a tabletop exercise led by JTF-Bravo that focuses on how the U.S. military, USAID and a host nation will respond jointly to natural disasters that affect the Central American region.

“This is our second opportunity to train with our El Salvadorian partners in the last 12 months,” said U.S. Army Maj. Jordan Legg, JTF-Bravo J9, Civil Military Operations director. “I am pleased to see that our efforts are expanding to include not only their national response agencies, but also the leaders at the municipal level.” 

The first day of the exercise covered El Salvador’s law on how they respond to natural disasters and the request process for international humanitarian aid followed by JTF-Bravo’s capabilities.

JTF-Bravo briefers were from the U.S. Army Forces Battalion, 612th Air Base Squadron, 1-228th Aviation Regiment, J-Staff, U.S. Southern Command’s Situational Assessment Team and Public Affairs.

The unique capabilities JTF-Bravo can provide, if requested by the host nation during a natural disaster, are short notice deployments by the U.S. SOUTHCOM’s SSAT, who can identify U.S. military capabilities needed and available to support U.S. foreign disaster assistance led by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

ARFOR’s Medical Detachment consists of medical, surgical and preventative health teams who are able to setup within a couple of hours to start augmenting medical operations and providing medical supplies.

Additionally, the 1-228th AR’s UH-60L and HH-60L Black Hawks, and the CH-47F Chinooks can conduct medical evacuations, and search and rescue in austere locations using the helicopter’s 100-foot hoist, and disaster relief with the capability to transport over 19,000 pounds of humanitarian aid and equipment.

Another important capability briefed was JTF-Bravo’s various engineering drones that can produce aerial imagery of mudslides to help emergency personnel to safely respond to this type of disaster.

On day two of the exercise, the participants were split into three groups to work together through a scenario selected for this Sentinel Watch with El Salvador, which was one of the top natural disasters for the country — earthquakes. 

“This area is known as the ‘Valley of the hammocks (Valle de las Hamacas)’ because of the frequent earthquakes,” said Jilma Maribel Lainez, head of the Department of Development and Human Talent for the El Salvador Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Development, General Directorate of Civil Protection. “Disasters are not natural that is why we have an umbrella of national actions to work together with our Joint Task Force-Bravo partners as a system with the same goal.” 

Earthquakes can trigger other events such as fires, mudslides and tsunamis. The three groups developed contingency plans on how El Salvador and JTF-Bravo can unite personnel and resources to respond to these various natural disasters.   

“It is through these efforts that we become colleagues in a common cause to mitigate suffering across Central America,” said Legg.

Natural disasters in Central America are inevitable. Sentinel Watch highlights the importance of fulfilling U.S. SOUTHCOM’s enduring promise to its regional partners and continues to provide rapid support and services with JTF-Bravo.

MIL Security OSI