Davis-Monthan AFB has been at the epicenter of the largest North and South American multi-national military exercise since 2003. Encompassing more than 3,500 Department of Defense personnel and partner nation participants this exercise has been the yearly capstone of multi-national planning, coordination and execution.
The PANAMAX exercise aimed to meet a range of multiple objectives with the main training objective focusing on building participating nation capabilities to plan and execute multi-national operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations.
“The exercise provided a learning experience to operate jointly and it identified specific limitations,” said Col. Sergio Catalan, an officer of operations for the Guatemalan air force and a PANAMAX 2012 participant. “We learned to operate together and learned how to integrate as a coalition.”
AFSOUTH’s objectives for the exercise were geared at integrating partner nation air forces and personnel into the planning and execution of multi-national operations. More than 250 U.S. Air Force members from Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH) were responsible for coordinating sorties involving a variety of U.S. aircraft.
“The goal was to integrate forces,” said Lt. Col. Sergio Cruz, the deputy of air transportation for the Dominican Republic air force and a PANAMAX 2012 participant. “Many things learned here will not apply when we act independently, but when we act together these lessons will be very important.”
During the exercise, the 612th Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) Compound, Testing and Training served as the 24/7 operational Command and Control node for associated operations. The extensive technical capabilities and communication structure allowed for seamless coordination, data tracking, and information dissemination required for leaders to make critical tactical level decisions in minimal time.
“From a space perspective, PANAMAX 12 was very successful and groundbreaking,” said Lt. Col. Dan Jones, 612th AOC director of space. “In previous PANAMAX exercises, we were able to harness joint space expertise from our US military services. This year, for the first time in a U.S.-led exercise, we integrated a Latin American space expert into a major US military exercise.”
The PANAMAX 2012 exercise included 17 nations and centered on operations in South America. Future PANAMAX exercises will focus more on tactical execution, but this year the focus was on coalition command and control and combined interoperability issues, which afforded the opportunity for simulations that do not require actual ships, aircraft or boots on the ground. The difficult decision to move more activities out of Panama was based on today’s economic realities and the simulated nature of this year’s evolution.
The success of the exercise would not have been possible if it were not for the robust number of base agencies supporting the event. Members from 12th Air Force Public Affairs, Protocol, Davis-Monthan Inn, security forces, and the 612 CAOC driver and escort team were critical in making this year’s event a military operational achievement.