Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger
Posted: August 27, 2015
TAMARA, Honduras – Soldiers from the San Antonio-based 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment are spending an extended summer working with and training Honduran military forces at a remote base two hours Northwest of the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
The four-month mission, which started in May, is meant to enhance the host nation’s ability to counter transnational organized crime by creating a knowledgeable and trained force that is able to detect, disrupt and detain illicit trafficking across Central America.
The over 50 members of Task Force Alamo, which is commanded by Maj. Rodney Kelley, were selected because they bring unique capabilities to the mission.
In addition to combat experience, these citizen-soldiers of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team brought with them expertise and experience that was gained from civilian careers in related fields. Members of the task force include Austin police officers, a U.S. Marshall, a firefighter, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, and employees of the Bexar County Sherriff’s Department.
These Texas National Guard Soldiers also bring an added benefit to the training environment: the ability to speak Spanish fluently.
Kelley said, “This group of Soldiers is exceptionally prepared for the mission in Honduras. The fact that 65 percent of our Soldiers are bilingual improves the quality of training because much is lost when an interpreter is used.”
“The civilian experiences that they bring to the training are an added bonus that is hard to replicate,” Kelley said.
Officially known as the Republic of Honduras, the country has suffered from many years of political instability and one of the highest crime rates in the world. Although there have been improvements, it remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Adding to the problem, nearly 28 percent of the 8.1 million people are unemployed despite an increase in trade with the United States, the country’s largest trading partner.
The rigorous training process builds U.S. partner nations' capability to conduct border control operations along with a series of related tasks. Subject matter experts from the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security are also brought in during each three-week rotation to focus on certain specialties.
Week 1 includes both rifle and pistol marksmanship, close quarters training, troop leading procedures and cordon/search operations.
Week 2 focuses on border enforcement, arrest/detainment, patrolling in an urban environment, working entry control points and utilizing terrain models for military operations.
Week 3 includes a field training exercise that pushes the students to utilize all the training they’ve received, but also focuses on operational security and how to use the 9-line format to call in medevac support.
Col. Cesar Rolando Rosales Zapata, commander of the military base in Tamara and also commander of the 2nd Infantry Airborne Battalion Transported, praised the joint training:
“We’re receiving great feedback from the soldiers and they are looking forward to putting their training into action in different parts of the country, along the border and on the coast.”
“I also enjoy seeing the camaraderie that is shared between the U.S. and Honduran soldiers as they compete in soccer and volleyball,” Rosales said.
Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division, said, “I’m extremely proud of Task Force Alamo and the great work it’s doing in Honduras.”
Simpson and Command Sergeant Major John Sampa visited the Soldiers in July to witness the training, identify potential opportunities for future rotations, meet with Honduran officials, and to thank the soldiers for their dedication and professionalism.
“These citizen-Soldiers have stepped up to volunteer, they’ve adapted to a new environment, and they’re having a tremendous impact on the Honduran people,” Simpson said. “This highly-successful mission is yet another example of the versatility that National Guard soldiers provide on the world scene. I couldn’t be prouder.”