Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, July 29, 2020 —
Members of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Defense Attache Service arranged with the Honduran chief of defense to conduct an airfield survey in San Lorenzo, Honduras, June 25. The routine trip, which received standard flight approvals several days earlier, started like any other. But this all changed once the crew landed in the remote town.
Upon landing, local police and citizens swarmed the aircraft, preventing the DAS members from departing. It did not take long for the crew to realize there was some miscommunication, and the local authorities did not receive notification of the aircraft’s scheduled appearance from the federal government.
As local news outlets swiftly appeared on the scene, the aircraft crew remained calm and respectful showing local authorities the necessary diplomatic documentation.
The crew immediately contacted the Honduran Airport Security Division and the Honduran National Directorate for Intelligence and Investigations to assist in their efforts with the local police.
Teammates back at embassy also contacted the Honduran Ministries of Security and Defense to help with clearing up any misunderstanding. The aircraft was soon allowed to takeoff.
“When confronted with a challenging situation, maintaining a calm and friendly demeanor with local authorities will allow one to leverage their host nation contacts to work the issue. The most important thing is to always be friendly yet assertive in your diplomatic status,” Maj. Steve Souza said. He continued, “When something like this occurs, there are also opportunities within the interagency to capitalize and turn it into a U.S. strategic messaging campaign. To be able to make the situation into a U.S. win, though, strong interagency relationships have to be built prior to the event. This takes time and effort on the part of the DAO.”
Following their encounter, the team arranged another visit, June 30, in conjunction with a planned Comisión Permanente de Contingencias disaster relief donation near the same airstrip. Along with the DAS members, the U.S. senior defense official/security cooperation chief participated in the visit and donated a U.S. Southern Command-funded $1.3 million humanitarian disaster relief warehouse, personal protective equipment for the Honduran military, masks and chocolates.