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Task Force Panama personnel train alongside security forces in Panama

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Cpt. James Balutowski, BTH-Panama force protection officer, 244th Engineer Battalion, and from Aurora, Colo., shows the proper techniques  for using the metal detecting wand to Panama’s SENAN security forces in Colon, Panama April 20. Cpt. James Balutowski, BTH-Panama force protection officer, 244th Engineer Battalion, and from Aurora, Colo., shows the proper techniques for using the metal detecting wand to Panama’s SENAN security forces in Colon, Panama April 20.

COLON, Panama – A soldier assigned to Task Force Panama trained members of the National Air and Navy Service of Panama (SENAN) on individual and vehicle search techniques as part of Beyond The Horizon 2013 - Panama.

The training, an impromptu idea of Capt. James Balutowski, was the first time most of the SENAN personnel had been exposed to individual or vehicle searches. Balutowski’s primary role in BTH is serving as the force protection officer.

SENAN, which is the Spanish abbreviation for Servicio Nacional Aeronaval, is a branch of the Public Forces of the Republic of Panama and is responsible for carrying out naval operations here.

Balutowski, who deployed to Afghanistan as a Military Police company commander, is an Army reservist assigned to the 244th Engineer Battalion out of Denver. When not wearing the Army uniform, he works as a deputy sheriff for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

“The Panamanians have done an outstanding job of providing security for us and are just as effective as any law enforcement agency in the states,” said Balutowski.

Also assisting in the training was 1st Lt. Jose Arango, a field supervisor for Panama’s Drug Enforcement Tactical Operations unit. Arango, who translated Balutowski’s instructions, learned to speak English at the Defense Language Institute in San Antonio.

Arango has been spending a lot of time with Balutowski during BTH. “I really enjoy spending time with Capt. Balutowski and sharing information with him,” said Arango. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect before they arrived, and it has been much better than I thought it was going to be.”

Balutowski hopes to train around 30 of the SENAN personnel in the proper use of under-carriage vehicle inspection mirrors and metal detecting wands for use on individuals. This will add another layer of security to the force protection the SENAN already have in place.

“We want to implement this immediately while U.S. forces are here and hope they will continue to use this training once we are gone,” said Balutowski.

BTH 2013-Panama is an annual exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command with operational support by U.S. Army South. U.S. military engineers and medical professionals deploy to Panama for cooperative training and humanitarian assistance in conjunction with host nation leadership, residents and security personnel.