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NMNG hosts Costa Rican Delegation for SMEE

  • Published
  • By A1C Catanach
  • 150SOW

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The New Mexico National Guard and Republic of Costa Rica representatives conducted a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Subject Matter Expert Exchange in New Mexico, August 2022. Participants discussed emergency management, operation center operations, wildland fire suppression, and reserve unit employment best practices.

The NMNG and the Republic of Costa Rica established a partnership in 2006 under the Department of Defense State Partnership Program and continue to engage in synchronized security cooperation efforts.

Brig. General Jamison Herrera, Deputy Adjutant General of New Mexico, visited Costa Rica during a Key leader Engagement earlier this year and welcomed the Partner Nation during this visit. Herrera emphasized the relationship's significance by quoting recent U.S. and Costa Rica joint efforts to mitigate transnational threats, including seizure of millions of dollars' worth of illicit drugs in recent months.

This SMEE incorporated New Mexico and Costa Rican civilian agencies and other Federal entities based on the "whole-of-government" approach, advancing relationships that foster cooperation across all levels of governance while promoting international stability and security. New Mexican participants included Albuquerque Fire Department and Emergency Operations Center, New Mexico's State Police, Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and U.S. Public Health. Costa Rica had representation from the Comision Nacional de Emergencias (National Emergency Commission), Bomberos (Firefighters), Costa Rican Social Security Fund, and Fuerza Publica (Public Safety).

The Fuerza Publica Special Operations Commander and New Mexico State Police Deputy Chief discussed lessons learned on training, sustainment, and utilization of a reserve force during disaster response, a timely topic since Costa Rica is actively building its reserves program.

Albuquerque's Emergency Management Director, the Comision Nacional de Emergencias Operations Officer, and a Costa Rican physician serving as the Emergency Director of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, discussed experiences in managing emergencies ranging from COVID19 to floods, focusing their conversation on technology applications, EM decision making, resource management and disaster preparedness. The participants also had first hand exposure to New Mexico's current state of emergency, witnessing how the New Mexico National Guard collaborates with the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to mitigate disasters.

For the first time in NM SPP history, the Bomberos and the Albuquerque Fire Department participated in a SMEE due to the historical wildland fires that New Mexico and Costa Rica are facing. Costa Rican Bomberos Operations Chief received a tour of the Albuquerque Fire Department from Staff Sgt. Brett Hicks, 150th Security Forces Squadron, who is also an Albuquerque Firefighter. The visit revealed a multitude of future opportunities for mutually beneficial engagements, and both parties are eager to establish a relationship to continue to strengthen their operations, particularly in wildland firefighting.

Costa Rica has witnessed over 6,000 vegetation fires in 2022, and the visitors flew aboard a New Mexico Army National Guard Blackhawk and discussed air asset management and application in wildland fire suppression with New Mexican counterparts.

Lastly, the 64th Civil Support Team shared acquired experiences in decontamination, a topic of significant value for Costa Rica's Fuerza Publica and bomberos. The Fuerza Publica Special Operations Commander, who studied and taught at Fort Benning, Georgia, explained how his team is developing similar capabilities due to emergent response needs. He and the Bomberos Operations Chief discussed how this is a shared responsibility between the Costa Rican firefighters and the police force.

Colonel Pia Romero, NMNG Director of Joint Staff, accompanied the staff during the visit as her first SPP event under her new responsibility. She highlighted how SPP is developing a strong relationship with the PN while also becoming a critical element to building relationships with New Mexican agencies and a mechanism of professional development of NM Guardsmen.

The NMNG continues its steadfast joint approach, and both Airmen and Soldiers planned and executed the engagement that the PN described as highly effective, particularly establishing new "whole-of government" opportunities to further strengthen the valued partnership.