AFSOUTH paves way to increase capabilities in Honduras

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AFNS) — A five-member assessment team from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron at Travis AFB, California, traveled to Honduras June 15-19 to perform a three-day capabilities assessment at several Honduran air bases as part of ongoing partnership operations.

The team focused on communication, intelligence collection and analysis, and maintenance capabilities at Hernan Acosta Mejia Air Base, Soto Cano AB, Armando Escalon Espinal AB and Hector Caraccioli Moncada AB.

“This visit went really well,” said Master Sgt. Roberto Vasquez, the superintendent of 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) Plans, Requirements and Programs section. “We brought a variety of subject matter experts so we could focus on providing in-depth feedback based on our individual specialties.”

According to Vasquez the approach to assessments is more time consuming but the end result is worthwhile. Ensuring all the bases were visited was also a high priority for the team.

“We decided to visit as many bases as possible in such a short amount of time so that we could get a full assessment of their operational capabilities,” Vasquez said.

As part of the U.S. Southern Command, 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) helps to enforce the SOUTHCOM priority of supporting our partners and building up our partner nation capacity. AFSOUTH seeks to help build up the capabilities of the Honduran Air Force in order to help the partner nation confront internal challenges to their security.

“Thanks to the support of the senior defense official/defense attaché, this is the first time many of us have been able to directly observe operations at outlying bases,” said Capt. Sarah Hartenstein, the 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) chief of theater engagements. “The information we gained helps us evaluate Honduran air force capabilities and training needs as a whole, and will ultimately allow us to improve our road map for future engagements.”

As a recent addition to the assessments’ team this is Hartenstein’s first trip to Honduras.

“I’m glad to be able to continue the work of my predecessor helping the Honduran air force increase their intelligence capabilities by laying the ground work for them to establish their own processing, analysis and dissemination cell,” Hartenstein said.

As part of building up Honduras’ capabilities, 12th Air Force (AFSOUTH) also provides training and logistics support, as well as outlets for units to share expertise and information.

“We are a new generation air force,” said Col. Javier Barrientos, the commander of Hector Caraccioli Moncada AB in La Ceiba. “Thanks to our friends at the 6th Special Operations Squadron (Hurlburt Field, Florida,) we are healthy, we are certified and we are ready to establish a more hands on training relationship with the U.S. Air Force.”

These training activities and exercises are aligned with the U.S. government’s contributions to regional security initiatives like the Central American Regional Security Initiative, which helps disrupt the movement of criminals and contraband to, within, and between the nations of Central America.

“Our mission will continue despite the challenges our air force faces,” said Col. Jose Saeceda, the commander of Armand Escalon Espinal AB in San Pedro Sula. “We are committed to ensuring our mission of countering transnational organized crime and preparing for humanitarian assistance is completed. We are able to accomplish our mission objectives through our strategic alignment with various other institutions.”

AFSOUTH uses the assessments to help build regional security through sustained engagements in order to deter adversaries, preserve stability throughout Central America, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others to address common security challenges.

“I hope that through this exchange we, Honduras and the U.S. (Air Force), can continue to build up our relationship,” said Lt. Col. Cristobal Vargas, the commander of Hernan Acosta Mejia AB in Tegucigalpa.