DVIDS – News – JTFB, USACAPOC partner with Honduran military for second cultural heritage assessment

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras – Joint Task Force-Bravo and the Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command partnered with the Honduran Army’s 120th Infantry Brigade and the Institute of Anthropology and History to assess cultural heritage sites affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Copan, Honduras, March 7-11.

This is the second iteration of this unique exchange in Honduras, with the first conducted last year in Olancho, to assist partner country forces with basic methodologies, tools and strategies on how to identify and document features or impacts on sites of cultural value.

“The idea is to exchange information and knowledge on how to better protect cultural heritage in order to establish better relations between our respective governments and military. This is a very unique field and what’s interesting is how heritage allows us to discuss security in a much larger context,” said Lt. Col. U.S. Army Michael Delacruz, Army Monuments Officer with USACAPOC, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. .

The exercise was coordinated by JTF-Bravo engineers, under US Southern Command, with the goal of assisting regional partners in post-disaster capabilities.

“We think it is important to share our expertise with our Honduran partners and that it is also important for [JTFB] to be able to identify cultural heritage sites or those that may be of significant value because we also operate in those areas because we want to be respectful of that while we’re here,” Lt. US Army Riley Kissinger, JTF engineer. -Bravo and officer in charge of the mission.

The week included a two-day class exchange in Santa Rosa de Copan, where experts presented background information and demonstrated what needed to be done in the field, including a form to collect information and tools to assess damage .

Participants then spent three days in the field and visited Copan Ruinas, identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, to learn what to look for and what they could help protect and accomplish by helping the ‘Institute of Anthropology.

The teams have also started the site assessment part in the affected areas of the park which is surrounded by the Copan River, which has caused flooding and erosion around the location and some of the temples.

With a personal connection to the location, and as personnel who guard this area as part of their military duties, Honduran soldiers have been personally invested in learning from Army monument officers to better prepare for future disasters where they could be called upon to protect, transport and store objects that are part of their own tangible and intangible heritage.

“I’ve had experience working in this area and we’ve patrolled this area, but until now I realize that some of the things that we thought were normal weren’t,” said the Honduran Army Lt. Kevin Calix, officer. in charge of the 120th attendees, as he recalled times when he now identified stones and boulders that potentially came from archaeological sites used as construction. “We didn’t take into account the effect it caused, but we now know that it is damage and that there are procedures to report it. [to the Institute of Anthropology]. If at some point they want to rebuild what once existed, they are going to need it,” he said.

Discussing the importance of protecting cultural heritage, Delacruz said not only is it important for maintaining our identity in relation to where we grew up and where we call home, “but also these resources are precious for a global audience and it is important that we cooperate in its protection” because often following a disaster, these sites and goods can be looted or trafficked.

In terms of partnership, these exchanges provide a unique opportunity for the U.S. military to strengthen cooperative ties by protecting the history and culture that unites the Americas, as well as our common values.
“I hope programs like this go beyond what we’ve done,” Delacruz said. “I think as we see events around the world, cultural heritage protection issues are a global concern and we’ve been very successful in building those relationships, so in demonstrating that success here in Honduras, I think that it’s something worth developing.”
As partners in Honduras and the region, SOUTHCOM supports several civil affairs initiatives and continues to cultivate relationships within Central American forces through JTF-Bravo.

Date taken: 14.03.2022
Date posted: 15.03.2022 17:33
Story ID: 416526

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