News: El Salvador agencies begin disaster relief exercise with US Army South
Story by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – The opening ceremony for FA-HUM, an acronym derived from the Spanish translation of Fuerzas Aliadas Humanigarias, kicked off a two week long humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise here May 5, bringing together Central American nations with their North and South American partners to practice disaster response.
During several command post and field training exercise scenarios, military, government and non-government agencies will work side-by-side in an effort to better collaborate humanitarian and disaster cooperation.
“We have experience in facing natural disasters, but we can do them better,” said the Chief of the Joint Staff El Salvador Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Rafael Melara during opening ceremony remarks. He stressed the importance of working together and strengthening coordination efforts for both civilian and military agencies.
In an audience wearing a myriad of uniforms, a band played both the national anthem of El Salvador, followed by the national anthem of the U.S. The Secretary of Vulnerability and Director General of Civil Protection, Jorge Melendez, noted the importance of this exercise.
“FA-HUM 2014 is the first time in which we have command and control at the emergency center,” he said, and then he thanked Army South for its support. “The United States of America is always there, not only the U.S. but particularly U.S. Army South is always present with us—where the mud is, where the victims are—and we want to thank you,” he said.
More than 400 people are taking part in the exercise that includes participation from nearly a dozen other countries.
“Training events such as FA-HUM enable us to better prepare by identifying those functions of response – our organization, protocols, procedures and practices that we can improve and most importantly our ability to collaborate and coordinate as part of ONE American family, from Canada to Tierra del Fuego,” said Col. Larry Dotson, Army South’s lead exercise planner.
Following the pageantries, the large group began their unwieldy task by listening to information briefings on Salvadorian national disaster response plans and specific natural disasters, such as a presentation on a massive earthquake in Chile. Today, all are in a listening mode. But tomorrow, the collaboration begins.