Instuctor Pilot has experience of a lifetime in Honduras
By 2nd Lt. Justin Jarrell, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 01, 2007
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Soto Cano AB lies in the Comayagua Valley and is surrounded by 8,000 foot mountain peaks. Located 50 miles from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, the base is home to the Honduran Air Force and Naval Academy, but provides an outpost for U.S. military assets protecting our southern border. The US Air Force maintains a 12,000 foot runway at this location enabling access of larger airlift aircraft such as the C-5 Galaxy.
For 138 days starting in September of 2006, Capt. Adam Gaudinski, an instructor pilot for the 37th Flying Training Squadron, was assigned as the air operations officer at Soto Cano responsible for all US air assets at the installation including Army helicopters. Also acting as an air liaison officer, he was responsible for calling in air support during tactical missions.
"Probably the most beautiful area I've seen," said Capt. Gaudinski. One memorable aspect of the deployment for him was the tropical environment. "It sounds like buckets of rain dumped on your roof every night," he said in regard to the metal-roofed "hooches" in which military members stay at Soto Cano.
Although he did not have much down time due to the mission, he did travel to nine different countries and met some of the Guatamalan pilots that had trained at Columbus AFB. During these travels he experienced many different wildlife including monkeys, parrots, spider, and remembers the local people as "very nice."
Soto Cano is a joint environment. "It's absolutely amazing to see how it comes together," Capt Gaudinski said of working with the US Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and host nation authorities. His missions in this joint climate included counter drug, humanitarian, and counter terrorism operations.
Three hundred million dollars of cocaine was seized during one of these counter drug operations. He explained that people involved in the drug trade take a vital interest in protecting it and "will to do anything they can to keep you from taking it."
Capt Gaudinski also acted as a humanitarian officer to bring in helicopters and aircraft with needed goods for supporting disasters during area floods and earthquakes. He said that when you take live-sustaining supplies to a devastated community "you just made a friend for life."
Counter terrorism operations conducted from Soto Cano are designed to capture intel to eradicate terrorist activities. "There's a larger radical muslim influence in that region than people realize," said Capt. Gaudinski. "Obviously I can't talk about everything but seeing the things you done the next day in the newspaper is pretty neat."
During his deployment, Capt. Gaudinski qualified as a rappel master. To complete this training he went through a five day course taught by the 101st Army Airborne Division.
He also went through Special Insertion Extraction System Training. "This is a two day course where you learn to hook up and derig from a dangling fast rope from a helicopter." This system is designed to get military personnel in and out of hostile situations quickly.
During these diverse experiences, Capt. Gaudinski said that "the biggest thing that I realized is that the base is the frontier, or outpost, for our southern border" "It protects are interests in the Central and South American region and keeps a positive American influence down there," he continued.
Capt Gaudinski returned to Columbus AFB Jan. 20 and has returned to work as a first assignment instructor pilot for the T-37. He left for Pilot Instructor Training at San Antonio, Texas yesterday for training in the T-6 Texan.