USA: Panama Canal Defense Exercise 2011 Comes to Close


The deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO) and U.S. 4th Fleet (C4F) presided over the PANAMAX 2011 closing ceremonies at the Ocean Breeze Conference Center at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Aug. 25.

Rear Adm. A.B. Cruz III led the ceremony for PANAMAX, the largest multinational training exercise in the world.

The annual U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) sponsored exercise focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, which is crucial to the unrestricted flow of global maritime commerce.

During the exercise, Rear Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander, COMUSNAVSO and C4F, served as the exercise’s combined forces maritime component commander (CFMCC). As such, Tidd had operational control of all maritime components in and around the Panama Canal, which included six “task forces,” comprised of 22 real-world partner nation ships, including USS Thach (FFG 43) and other notional maritime assets. Additionally, 55 partner nation participants came to COMUSNAVSO and C4F headquarters to directly coordinate maritime operations during the exercise.

“Together, we have built a team who believes in working together for a common goal,” said Tidd.

During the two-week long exercise, CFMCC supported Multinational Forces-South, led by U.S. Army South, located in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

CFMCC assets engaged in a series of simulated exercise scenarios playing out at the Naval Station Mayport-based headquarters and in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility off the coast of Panama.

Multinational exercises like PANAMAX allow regional militaries to increase interoperability and strengthen partnerships in order to work together on shared challenges.

In addition to the U.S., 16 nations participated in the exercise, including Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

At the closing ceremony, Cruz presented each of the CFMCC partner nation directors with a plaque and a unique PANAMAX 2011 coin.

“This year our multinational maritime force collectively and brilliantly exercised maritime security operations in order to maintain free and secure access to the Panama Canal and contribute to maritime regional stability,” said Cruz. “Let me say that is has been a true honor to work with each of you on what was a challenging and successful PANAMAX. I thank you for your individual country’s commitment and your continued support of this very important annual exercise.”

COMUSNAVSO is the naval component command for USSOUTHCOM and is responsible for all naval personnel and assets in the area of responsibility. COMUSNAVSO conducts a variety of missions in support of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, including theater security cooperation, relationship building, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, community relations and counter-illicit trafficking operations.

Source: navy, August 29, 2011;