By Martin Chahin / Joint Task Force Bravo Public Affairs February 25, 2020 Like past years going back more than a decade, Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) welcomed 25 Central American firefighters from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to be trained during an iteration of CENTAM SMOKE — a biannual firefighting exercise — February 3-7 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.Though this exercise involves many of the same countries each year, each iteration brings new participants to train on life-saving skills. Classes are taught by members of the Soto Cano Fire Department — part of the 612th Air Base Squadron — to strengthen competencies for each of the participants and to learn from one another different techniques used in each country. The result is firefighters who share a common understanding of their craft and who are ready to facilitate future operations with coherent unity of effort.“Our instructors are experts in the field of fighting structural fires, aircraft fires, and technical rescue of passengers,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Kyle Dobler, CENTAM SMOKE director. “To give an example, two of our instructors participating in this training are instructors of the U.S. Air Force Fire Fighting Academy in Europe. This shows the level of knowledge of our instructors for the benefit of the participants.”During the week of training, participants practiced security techniques, good use of personal equipment, structural fires and aircraft fires. They were able to familiarize themselves with equipment and receive first-responder medical training.“This is the first time that I am in this kind of training, and I am very grateful for being here,” said Silvia Lemus, a Guatemalan firefighter and exercise participant. “This training is of vital importance because we will do things better in our countries — and even better, when several countries are being trained. Now we return to our country to teach what we learned here.”In 13 years, JTF-Bravo has trained over 800 members of the Central American fire corps, making the work done in each country more efficient and forming a group of connected professionals more prepared to jointly face regional disasters.“This training matters only if you take the skills we’ve gained together and share them with your teams,” said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Barry, JTF-Bravo commander. “When you spread best practices, the value of this training is exponential. I sleep more soundly knowing we have an interconnected community of firefighters in this region who share a common understanding of their craft and who are ready to facilitate future operations with coherent unity of effort.”
NEW YORK, CMC – A Haitian-American legislator in New York City joined her Caribbean American colleagues in welcoming the New York Legislature’s passage of a bill that for the first time provides undocumented Caribbean and other immigrant students access to New York State financial aid and scholarships for higher education.New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, has applauded the passage of the New York State DREAM Act, sponsored by Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa and Senator Luis Sepulveda.Creates easier pathways“After six long years of lingering the Senate, this bill is finally off to the Governor’s office for signing,” said Bichotte, stating that the New York State DREAM Act, seeks to create a DREAM fund commission and a DREAM fund in order to advance the educational opportunities for undocumented Caribbean and other children by providing scholarships to college-bound students.The bill will also create easier pathways for undocumented families to obtain college tuition savings assistance and financial aid.“I’m proud to support the right of children to pursue higher education, regardless of their immigration status,” Bichotte told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). “These DREAMers should be able to do so without the many obstacles laid out for them, such as ineligibility for scholarships, financial assistance and college tuition savings programs.DREAMERS contribute to the economy“It is a known fact that Dreamers have been contributing to our economy and society, and that it would only make sense for us to extend opportunities that will better themselves and the world around them,” added Bichotte, whose Brooklyn district encompasses the predominantly Caribbean of Ditmas Park, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Midwood.Bichotte – currently the chair of the State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) – said undocumented students have been a boon for the US economy, citing a report by the Center for American Progress, which states that immigrant children protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would contribute an estimated US$400 billion to the US gross domestic product over the next decade.If the Federal Dream Act were passed, it would illicit US$22.7 billion annually over the next decade, the report says.In a clear rebuke to US President Donald J. Trump’s draconian immigration policies, the New York Senate Majority Conference on Wednesday passed the José Peralta New York State DREAM Act.The measure passed the New York State Senate 40-20 and the New York State Assembly 90-37.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will sign it into law.