PANAMAX 2011 Concludes 12 Days of Training
By Dialogo August 30, 2011
The U.S. and multinational forces who participated in PANAMAX 2011 concluded the exercise in Panama City on August 26, after 12 days of training simulating the defense of the Panama Canal. Sea and land forces from 16 nations, which included 22 naval assets, participated in class room training and real world simulations in Panama, and several locations in the United States.
“Over the years PANAMAX has become the premiere multi-lateral exercise bringing together the countries and security forces of the western hemisphere in a shared commitment to protect one of the most important strategic infrastructures in the world,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steven H. Ratti, director of Operations, U.S. Southern Command. According to RADM Ratti, the scenario was in response to a credible threat to the canal, which led to a United Nations resolution. The resolution called for a multi-national force to protect the canal.
The U.S. Southern Command sponsored exercise covered visit, board, search, and seizure in both the Pacific Ocean, and Caribbean Sea phases. The guided missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43), participated in operations in the Pacific, along with Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Chile, and host nation Panama. The Caribbean phase had the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bear (WMEC 901) joining Mexico, Canada, and Ecuador in the VBSS training.
Colombia took charge of the land forces that were investigating the simulated threat, and a Mexican navy ship participated in the operations for the first time.
The exercise also covered dive training. Divers from Panama’s SENAN, along with Belizean, Canadian, and U.S. divers demonstrated the interoperability PANAMAX brings to partner nations. The interaction between the teams included diving, physical fitness, and other tasks divers must complete in their mission, like welding.
“We’re down here training, developing partnerships and strengthening relationships; working on the interoperability between ourselves and our partner nations’ dive teams,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Horeinski, company commander Mobile Salvage Diving Unit 2, Little Creek, Virginia, EE. UU. “Working with a combined team gives divers the chance to see the different capabilities we have and they can put into practice new techniques.”
The current exercise began in 2003, with Panama, Chile and the United States as the first nations to simulate the defense of the canal. Since then, nations from throughout the region have come together to participate in the defense of one of the world’s strategic economic points.
“The Panama canal is one of the most important economic gateways for us, and our partner nations, so the defense of the canal has always been a very important task for us,” commented Panamanian Servicio Nacional Aeronaval, Cmdr. Osvaldo Urena, task force 803, about the exercise. The defense of the canal is equally important to our partners, as they have a need to use the canal.”
The canal opened for business on Aug. 15, 1914. Since then, over 800,000 ships have transited the 47.9 mile man-made wonder to avoid the trip around the continent of South America.
I do not understand how all these vessels could not manage to get effective help for the Panamanians in finding a light aircraft that fell in the water near Darien???