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Assessment teams gear up to respond to Felix

by Senior Airman Shaun Emery
Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

9/5/2007 - SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras (AFPN) -- Soto Cano Air Base assessment teams are currently loading up equipment in preparation to deploy to countries affected by Hurricane Felix. 

Felix left a trail of devastation in areas of Nicaragua and Honduras yesterday, killing at least four people and destroying 5,000 homes, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Center officials have now downgraded Felix to a tropical storm as of 9 a.m. eastern time Sept. 5.

Assessment teams include multiple members to evaluate the amount of assistance needed from U.S. forces, including search and rescue, medical, engineering and communications troops.

"Our goal is to get to the countries in need as soon as possible," said Army Col. Marcus De Olivera, the commander of Joint Task Force-Bravo here. "Joint Task Force-Bravo has the capability to provide everything from airlift to medical expertise. Once we see the damage, we can work with the affected countries to determine what further assets they may need."

Assessment teams will deploy when an official request for aid comes from the countries affected by the storm.

"We (are) in a position where we get boots off the ground immediately," said Army Lt. Col. Esmeraldo Zarzabal, the deputy commander of JTF-Bravo's medical element and an assessment team commander. "Our teams are fully equipped for the task at hand. We continuously train for these situations in the event a natural disaster strikes the region."

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