20-nation Panama Canal protection drill kicks off

US Navy’s Southern Command is hosting 20 nations for the Combined Force Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) portion of the annual exercise PANAMAX.

Senior leaders, service-members and soldiers from nations taking part in the exercise gathered at JBSA-Ft. Sam Houston, July 27, for a Rehearsal of Concept drill in preparation for PANAMAX 2018. Photo. US Navy

Running from July 30 to August 10, the Panama Canal protection exercises will be led by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the United States.

Panamax, an annual multinational exercise, develops and sustains relationships that allow partner-nation security forces in the region to achieve common goals, increase cooperation, and improve understanding.

The main focus of PANAMAX 2018 is exercising a variety of responses to fulfil requests from the government of Panama to protect and guarantee safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality, and respect national sovereignty. This exercise is designed to conduct stability operations in support of a fictitious United Nations Security Council Resolution, providing interoperability training for the participating multinational staffs, and building participating nation capability to plan and conduct complex multinational operations.

PANAMAX began in 2003 with three countries, Chile, Panama and the United States, and originally focused solely on the maritime security of the Panama Canal. Since that time, the exercise has grown to become the region’s largest coalition Command Post Exercise, ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, which is one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world.

Since inception, partner nations have continued to take increased leadership roles in the exercise. This year, Colombia is leading the Combined Force Land Component Command (CFLCC), Brazil is leading the CFMCC, and Argentina is leading the Combined Force Special Operations Component Command (CFSOCC).

The exercise provides unique simulated training opportunities that incorporate scripted, event-driven scenarios to provide the maximum opportunity to improve interoperability. These simulated training scenarios address key aspects of multination and combined operations such as technology standardization and common operating procedures.