News: Airmen build partnerships with Trinidad and Tobago Army
Story by 2nd Lt. Joel Banjo-Johnson
CUMUTO BARRACKS, Trinidad and Tobago – After four days of exercising, the expeditionary medical support health response team from the 60th Medical Group at Travis Air Force Base Calif., have proven to be very effective. While exercising disaster scenarios, they also examined and treated more than 600 local nationals.
The team is here at the invitation of Trinidad and Tobago and is here to support the nation, while strengthening friendships, bolstering partner nation capacity, and expanding cooperation between nations. New relationships have developed between the Trinidad and Tobago Army and the Air Force.
“I was excited because I’ve never worked with the Air Force before,” said Maj. Kestor Weekes, commanding officer of the 1st Engineer Battalion. “This is a wonderful experience for me and for my staff and a brilliant opportunity to take care of you all.”
The 1st Engineer Battalion provided Combat Service Support to the EMEDS HRT during the duration of their stay.
“Understanding what it takes to support your operation in an austere setting is important,” said Weekes. "It allows my team to understand some of the combat service support functions of an engineer unit. It’s something we don’t get to practice very often, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to give support to a large unit such as yours.”
Supporting the EMEDS HRT was not the only priority for the 1st Engineer Battalion. While providing services to the Air Force to include a large number of role-playing trauma victims, the battalion received other exercise tasks such as calls for search teams and reconnaissance missions.
“I am looking at how quickly I can scramble my team and how quickly they can start their processes,” said Weekes. “I am also looking at how well I communicate with a service unit like yours while maintaining my operational tempo and handling other requests that come down.”
One of the scenarios tested the Trinidad army’s ability to deal with an internally displaced population while also focusing on the supporting the hospital facility.
“Everything is brilliant. There have been some very good lessons learned, and we should all have really good outcomes,” said Weekes. It is important for Trinidad and Tobago and my unit in particular, as we are the operational arm of the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management. We must stretch our capacities and see how agile we are so we can assist our neighbors in the event of a disaster. This will also allow us to have an understanding of our own ability to really self heal, should we be faced with a disaster.”
The Trinidad and Tobago army has participated in humanitarian relief previously in Haiti in 1993 and also in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada. In 7.5 hours, the Trinidad and Tobago army had boots on the ground. The Allied Forces Exercise allows Trinidad to continue to practice their capabilities and foster lasting relationships between the countries.
“It was absolutely smashing to see everyone [Air Force members] out there erecting the tents…all the surgeons, all the colonels, all the majors…you all really went out there and put your shoulders into it,” saidWeekes. “It left a really good message with my troops. The entire experience is a win-win-win for all of us. People will miss each other.”