UNITAS Naval Exercise Kicks Off in Panama
By Ensign Carol McKenzie/U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. Fourth Fleet September 27, 2016Panama, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States participate in the U.S. Navy’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise The 10-day exercise is hosted by the Panamanian Navy and includes operations in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Area of Responsibility through Sept. 28th. Participating units from the United States include USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913), JTF-Bravo with 3 H-60 Blackhawk Helicopters, VBAT UAS, Puma UAS (TBC), Destroyer Squadron 40 (DESRON 40) and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet. UNITAS 2016 is designed to train each navy to conduct joint naval operations through the execution of littoral warfare, anti-piracy, maritime interdiction operations, countering transnational organized crime, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, communication exercises, and air operations in order to increase interoperability and capability between participating naval forces. The 57th iteration of the exercise, this year’s UNITAS will focus on promoting tactical interoperability and friendship through advanced training and joint operations. The first UNITAS was planned in 1959 and held in 1960; it has occurred annually ever since. UNITAS, which means "unity" in Latin, is a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the region and to the value of the strong relationships forged between our partner nation militaries. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations. The goal is to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security, promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, and South American regions.