From a June 28, 2011 entry titled Two years since the coup; Nothing to celebrate, these fieldnotes:
Three days ago, on the plane from Houston, I sat next to a soldier based at Palmerola. He worked in the fire brigade, and had requested to be stationed in Honduras because he had a daughter whom he seemed quite fond of, by a Honduran woman from Comayagua for whom he had nothing but contempt. He told me he'd been stationed in Japan, and Afghanistan—much heavier than Honduras, lots more fires to put out (literally).
I think I brought up Osama bin Laden, although it may have been him. He said "I wanted to catch Osama for that 10 billion dollar reward but then the guys who caught him didn't get it anyway because they were armed forces and we can't get rewards." I said, well, at least you'd get the glory, but he corrected me. They didn't release the names of the guys who caught him, for their own protection. How sad, I said. Not even that.
I asked him if his firefighting was limited to the base, and he said that mostly it was, but there wasn't much to do. The regs were so strict—no open fires, no charcoal. Once in a while during dry season someone's cigarette butt would set some brush on fire, but other than that nothing much to do during the days. I asked if they ever helped the local community with its fires. He said "They're calling on us a lot from town. If it's a factory or something we might go in if it's good PR, but if it's a house, we say 'let it burn.' A few months ago there was a huge fire on the mountain nearby. We let it burn for four days- what did we care? They were calling and calling us, but it was just brush. There was nothing in it for us." I asked why the Hondurans cared so much about it—had there been people living up there? "I dunno."
He told me that no visitors were allowed on base, unless maybe I (as a gringa) had some direct connection. Only contractors and soldiers. He said "There's no other base in the world where you can't sign people on" [not true, incidentally, but it certainly is stricter than most]. He lamented the rule, which had been in place since last year, when according to him a Honduran general ("It's our base but they're in charge" he said, well-trained in the PR) decided no one could come in. The girls from town used to be able to come to the base club, he told me. But now it's totally boring. "That sucks," I said, doing my best to empathize. He was a nice guy, after all. Just a soldier.
...and from an October 31, 2011 post titled Granting Golpismo:
JTFB also like to get with the kids for a little firefighting propaganda:
The activities, as part fire prevention week, included crawling through a simulator containing dry ice smoke, participating in a smoke detector class, touring the fire station and watching a water truck demonstration...Earlier in the day, the firefighters participated in a local parade where they handed out safety flyers, fire hats and candy to children.
This is particularly disgusting in light of the comment a Palmerola firefighter made to me earlier this year about letting a massive fire burn for four days because there was no PR value in it.