Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras
Joint Task Force-Bravo is located at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. JTF-Bravo is comprised of approximately 550 US military personnel and more than 650 US and Honduran civilians. They work in six different areas including the Joint Staff, Air Force Forces (612th Air Base Squadron), Army Forces, Joint Security Forces and the Medical Element. 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, a US Army South asset, is a tenant unit also based at Soto Cano. The J-Staff provides command and control for JTF-B.
The Air Force Forces has among its functions; weather forecasting, fire protection, and maintaining a 24-hour C-5-capable runway. The Army Forces operate finance, food service and transportation. Joint Security Forces is comprised of Air Force, Army and Marine force protection personnel who patrol the base and downtown areas frequented by US servicemembers.
Health care services are performed by the Medical Element. The 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment performs a variety of airlift support missions throughout Central and South America with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. US forces are guests here on the base which is the home of the Honduran Air Force Academy.
As early as 1965, the US and Honduran Armed Forces conducted combined training exercises. In 1983, the number and size of these exercises increased when the US, at the request of the Honduran Government, began maintaining a visible military presence in the face of threats from foreign forces. This initial joint force was designated JTF-11. Since 1983, the joint task force has provided support for joint and combined training exercises involving active and reserve components. The location and climate of Honduras combine to provide US military members an opportunity to train in an overseas, semi-tropical, austere environment.
The task force also oversees Operation New Horizons - civil engineer training missions that build new schools, bridges, wells and other infrastructure projects in underdeveloped regions of Central America, as well as assisting US forces in providing humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Soto Cano stages and arranges regular medical readiness training exercises throughout Central America - dispatching doctors, dentists and nurses to remote regions to treat locals, some of whom have never received modern medical care.
Soto Cano is a Honduran military installation and home of the Honduran Air Force and Naval Academy. It is located less than 10 miles from Comayagua (population: 33,000), and 60 miles from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. The base is about two miles wide and six miles long; lies in the Comayagua Valley and is ringed by 8,000-foot mountain peaks to the east and west. Soto Cano sits at an elevation of 2,062 feet above sea level.
Soto Cano lodging consists of "hooches" and metal barracks. Hooches are temporary wooden buildings of tropical design, normally 16-feet by 32-feet with screened windows and a tin roof with air conditioners and fans for cooling. Metal barracks are more permanent structures and have air conditioners. Both contain beds, televisions, VCRs, refrigerators and microwaves. Latrines, shower facilities and laundry rooms are centrally located to the living areas. Dayrooms, volleyball courts, barbecues and "bohios" (covered picnic areas) are also located throughout the base. All the domestic facilities, like the post office, library, dining facility, gym, pool and base exchange, are clustered together within a five-minute walking distance.
Only a few airmen, mainly those with families in the area, own vehicles, since the government doesn't ship privately owned vehicles to Honduras. The majority hoof it or ride bicycles, but since the base is so compact, it poses no problem. Most personnel arrive via the "Freedom Bird," which conducts weekly flights from Charleston AFB, S.C., normally on Mondays, that fly directly into Soto Cano.
On December 11, 2002 five soldiers from 1-228th were killed when a UH-60 crashed into a mountain 85 miles north of Tegucigalpa. The aircraft departed Sen Pedro Sula at 8;14 PM and crashed 20 minutes later. It was headed to the US base in Palmerola.
As of early May 5005, Soto Cano was slated to get new housing facilities as part of a military construction project. The houses were to replace the 270 wooden structures (“hooches") used for decades prior at the facility. The project called for 44 four-unit apartment buildings, some of which were being built in a big open field next to rows of the old hooches, and seven two-story, 72-occupant dormitories to be built.
Plans called for the construction to take place over the forthcoming years with all all base facilities to either be new or receive major upgrades. A big improvement is the indoor plumbing and central air conditioning the new buildings will have. Hooches do not have running water, and many have old, noisy window air conditioning units. In addition, the new bulidings will lessen the requirement for constant maintenance.
As of early May 2005, Four of the apartment buildings were finished and already occupied. An additional four apartments were under construction and were to be occupied by mid-June 2005 while four others were to be ready by the end of November 2005. When construction on the dormitories would begin remained unclear.
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