U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) and the U.S. Embassy, in coordination with the Panamanian National Border Service (SENAFRONT, in Spanish), National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish), and the Ministry of Health, came together once again to carry out humanitarian and disaster relief Exercise Mercury III, March 22-April 1, in Panama.
The objective of the exercise was to strengthen natural disaster joint response capabilities. In this iteration, “more than 500 people from different communities in the Darien province received medical attention,” reported a NEX Noticias video.
“Drills such as Exercise Mercury III prepare us to join up in case of emergencies while providing real benefits to the population. This allows us to respond quickly to crises, especially when two natural disasters occur back-to-back as happened in 2020 with hurricanes Eta and Iota,” said U.S. Army Colonel Steven Gventer, JTF-Bravo commander, during the closing ceremony.
The exercise deployed one of 12 mobile hospitals the U.S. donated to Panama. The hospital was set up to address the health of the population in the community of Sambú. The exercise also included medical care for the community of the Emberá-Wounan Comarca — a native autonomous area — in the Darién Gap, which borders Colombia.
Chinook and Blackhawk aircraft transported some 150 tons of donations, including medical supplies and food, as well as construction materials for nine communities and four SENAFRONT bases.
“Thanks to these exercises we are better prepared to provide a joint response to a natural disaster, as happened more than a year ago when Hurricane Eta hit Chiriquí, and Joint Task Force Bravo made its helicopters available to support the Panamanian authorities,” U.S. Embassy in Panama Chief of Mission Stewart Tuttle said.
Disaster response training for participants included fast-roping to respond to rescue operations in a timely manner.
“It has been a joint work that we have been carrying out in strategic alliance since the floods of November 2020, in the Ngöbe Buglé region and the province of Darién. The effectiveness of this alliance with the United States, not only in security but also in humanitarian aid, has been demonstrated,” Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Manuel Pino said.