PANAMAX 2022 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, multinational annual exercise with the aim of strengthening partnerships, enhancing readiness, and improving interoperability between the United States and partner nations’ armed forces. U.S. Army South hosted a big partion of PANAMAX, carried out August 1-12. Diálogo spoke with U.S. Army Major General William Thigpen, commanding general of U.S. Army South and commanding general of multinational forces for PANAMAX 2022.
Diálogo: The first PANAMAX happened in 2003. What is the main difference between then and now?
U.S. Army Major General William Thigpen, commanding general of U.S. Army South:
Well, we started with three countries participating in PANAMAX in May 2003, which was Chile, Panama, and the United States. So now in 2022, we have a total of about 19 countries participating, 1,500 U.S. service members, and approximately 500 members of partner nations across those 19 countries.
Diálogo: How meaningful is the fact that all these countries come to work together?
Maj. Gen. Thigpen: Extremely meaningful. Keep in mind that the Western Hemisphere is all of our neighborhood. So, security and stability in the region is important to everyone that’s participating in this exercise, and beyond.
Diálogo: How are countries selected or invited to participate?
Maj. Gen. Thigpen: First, I’ll start off by saying that everyone is welcome to participate based on our policy. We’ve seen the participation grow over the years. This year we’ve seen more countries wanting to fill senior roles. You’ll see that our deputy commander, Army Major General Ricardo Stagher, is from Chile; our land component commander, Army Major General Rodrigo Ferraz Silva, is from Brazil, for instance. So, every year we’re seeing more opportunities for partner nations to fill senior roles. We’re excited. I think it’s important and we’re looking forward to the exercise growing each year.
Diálogo: Is cybersecurity something you also practice during PANAMAX?
Maj. Gen. Thigpen: Yes. The information domain is extremely important to military operations. In order to be successful in military operations, we have to focus on the information domain. So that’s an aspect that we always plan for and we’ll continue to plan for in the future.
Diálogo: The Netherlands, which is a participating country this year, obviously is not part of the Western Hemisphere. What do these countries outside of the region bring to the table?
Maj. Gen. Thigpen: Each country has its own unique capability. We try to align strengths with the operation, the complexity of executing multinational operations. We try to focus on what we refer to as interoperability. And that comes in three aspects: the human aspect of communicating, the procedural aspect of planning, and then there’s a technical aspect of being able to get equipment, military systems, and technology to communicate with one another.
Diálogo: Any final words about this year’s exercise?
Maj. Gen. Thigpen: It has been extremely humbling to watch this exercise unfold. To see 19 countries come together for a common cause. It has been phenomenal to watch it, to be a part of it, and to lead it.