Task Force Provides Iraq Training to Salvadoran Military
By Senior Airman Shaun Emery, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, July 23, 2007 A task force of 26 personnel from Joint Task Force Bravo traveled here earlier this month to conduct military-to-military training for Salvadoran soldiers deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Army Spc. Jonathan Potter, who provided medical instruction during training with the Salvadoran military, watches as a student prepares to administer an intravenous needle into a wounded soldier. Photo by Senior Airman Shaun Emery, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During the week-long training mission July 16-20, Salvadoran soldiers were instructed on driving military vehicles, convoy and perimeter security, communications, how to avoid improvised explosive devices, civilian and military cooperation, and emergency first aid.
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 Salvadoran 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.
Col. Jose Atilio Benitez Parada, 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 of terrorism. He said he is proud to support America, one of El Salvador’s brother countries.
While in Iraq, Salvadoran soldiers will use American military equipment, so it is important they receive the training prior to deploying. Salvadoran drivers 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 U.S. Army 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.”
Saucer, Army Staff Sgt. Brian Grishaw and Master Sgt. Elva Marquez went over basic preventive maintenance and the layout of the vehicle before drivers took to the road.
As Humvees and a 5-ton truck rolled by, medical personnel were busy learning techniques that could save their fellow soldiers’ lives. From victim assessment to administering intravenous needles, students ran the full gamut of U.S. Army Combat Live Saver training. The medical instructors later said the only thing more impressive than the skills the Salvadoran soldiers 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 every day 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 radios operated. Like their fellow soldiers, the radio students were eager to learn more.
“They asked really good questions,” said U.S. Air Force 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 improvised explosive devices 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, convoy security troops neutralized the enemy. At the same time, medical personnel were treating wounded soldiers in the back of the 5-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 necessary treatment and prepared them for evacuation.
With all the action happening around them, radio operators relayed coordinates to a simulated helicopter to provide medical evacuation.
“The exercise was outstanding,” Jicha, the task force commander, said. “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, one person running back and forth played a special role in the exercise.
Army Staff Sgt. Edgardo Alvarez, who was there to provide linguistic support, was handed the reigns to the 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,” Jicha said. “And the results were evident.”
“I am very proud of these guys,” Alvarez said. “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 Salvadoran soldiers they may find themselves serving beside in Iraq are professional and eager to learn.
(Air Force Senior Airman Shaun Emery is assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs.)