PANAMAX Military Exercise kicks off

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT) kicked off this year’s the annual PANAMAX Military Exercise (PANAMAX), hosting more than 320 U.S. and partner nation personnel participating in the exercise from July 25 to Aug. 4.

Since its inception in 2003, PANAMAX has become one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world. The exercise is focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world.

This year’s exercise will include participation from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the United States.

“The priority during PANAMAX will be given to the interoperability at higher levels of coalition command and control involving 19 partner nations,” said Deputy Commander, USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT Rear Adm. Robert L. Greene. “But more importantly this exercise provides a greater opportunity to learn different perspectives and approaches when solving problems that surface throughout the exercise. Being able to bridge the gap between strategic objectives and tactical execution is critical to success, and this exercise will enable the whole process to come to fruition.”

Greene is deputy commander for the Combined Force Maritime Component (CFMCC) of PANAMAX 2016, led this year by Rear Adm. Alberto Alcala of Peru.

Planning for PANAMAX began October 2015. For over nine months, U.S. and partner nation militaries have worked to synchronize their efforts in the coordination of over 1,000 personnel from all participating countries.

“It has been a constant refinement,” said Cmdr. Dan Hannum, PANAMAX lead planner. “Getting the right people in the right places is so important. We conduct exercises like this to increase our interoperability with our partner nations in the event of a real world catastrophe. Through these exercises the infrastructure is already set up, so all we would have to do is plug and play.”

PANAMAX 2016 will be conducted as a command post exercise with no actual forces, including CFMCC staff comprised of 270 personnel — including 80 partner nationals — hosted by USNAVSO in Mayport.

The exercise develops and sustains relationships that improve the capacity of emerging and enduring partners’ security forces to achieve common desired goals, while fostering friendly cooperation and understanding among participating forces.

“There is no greater reward than to build close working relations with partner nations,” said Greene. “Creating a cohesive bond that endures throughout times of crisis, developing a culture of resiliency within each nation in an era where violent extremism is prevalent throughout the globe, and having no boundaries will ensure regional stability in the long term. Exercises such as PANAMAX and UNITAS set the stage for strengthening these partnerships, bringing unity of effort as we strive together to counter the terrorist threat.”