AFSOUTH works with partner nations in annual exercise

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

Members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) came together with 19 other partner nations in a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise that focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.

PANAMAX is a training exercise with scenarios that are focused around the Panama Canal. 

“The primary objective of the exercise was to practice the tasking process, how it works and how we pass information back and forth between U.S. and our partner nations,” said Lt. Col. Tray York, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) director of space forces.

According to USSOUTHCOM, PANAMAX is designed to help the U.S. develop and sustain relationships with our Latin American partner nations in order to improve the capacity of our partners’ security forces.  By fostering and understanding between participating forces we achieve common desired goals of increasing interoperability among participating nations.  Ensuring the security of the Panama Canal scenario effectively facilitates international exchanges.

In PANAMAX 2015, the interoperability was enhanced by the appointment of Peruvian Maj. Gen. Mario Contreras, director of the Central Hospital of the Peruvian Air Force, as the Combined Force Air Component Commander.

“The main thing that I learned was that we are from different countries, meaning that we have different ways of thinking,” said Contreras.  “But we were able to come together, perform, and make this exercise a success.”

The PANAMAX exercise is designed to provide interoperability training for the participating multinational staffs, as well as helping build-up participating nation’s capability to plan and execute complex multinational operations.

“I’m most impressed with Gen. Contreras’ leadership abilities,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Lindberg, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) mobilization assistant to the commander. “In the beginning of the exercise he recognized that we are all from different nations but brought the exercise team together as the Air Forces for the multi-national forces commander.”

One of the most important benefits of multinational exercises like PANAMAX is the fact that all the participants will be able to exchange their experiences and expertise.

“We know what items we have to work on, we now have the next year to take everything that we learned during PANAMAX and build upon it to prepare for next year’s exercise,” said Contreras.

Lindberg said, “The main focus of PANAMAX is to exercise a variety of responses to any request from the government of Panama to ensure protection and guarantee safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal.” 

Security is a necessary condition for prosperity and lasting democratic institutions. PANAMAX provides opportunities for the participating nations to join efforts to counter threats posed by violent and illegally armed groups, provide for humanitarian relief as necessary, and to defend the Panama Canal as deemed necessary by the government of Panama and other nations of the region.