Multinational Exercise Panamax 2014 Begins

Originally proposed by Chile, the first Panamax took place in 2003. It came to fruition through coordinated efforts between Chile, Panama, and the United States. Since then, this military exercise has grown significantly over the years with the participation and assets used from several countries.
By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo | 8 August 2014

Capacity Building

Photo caption: Australian Maj. Benjamin Watson, assigned to U.S. Marine Corps 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, facilitates a war gaming coalition comparison discussion as the Coalition Forces Maritime Component Command cell forms their operational proposal to leadership at Panamax 2013. More than 160 participants from 18 countries gathered together at U.S. Southern Command for the annual exercise that focuses on supporting the Panamanian government in defense of the strategic Panama Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Elizabeth Thompson)

The nation of New Centralia is under attack, a violent and shadowing group of terrorists are threating world commerce, and it’s up to the United Nations sponsored Multi-National Forces-South (MNFS) to save the day.

That’s the scenario of this year’s Panamax exercise, a multi-national event that brings together military and security forces from throughout the region to practice their skills to protect the approaches to the Panama Canal and compliment the Government of Panama’s effort’s to protect its sovereign territory.

Panamax 2014 is a challenging security exercise that simulates operations mostly in the maritime arena and in the fictional country of New Centralia from August 8 -14. “The exercise uses joint, combined and interagency operations to achieve holistic and integrated responses to transnational threats. The exercise reinforces strategic communication themes by stressing common interests, cooperative solutions, and long term security aimed at ensuring prosperity and democratic ideals. It is sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and is designed and executed by participating nations,” said Chief Warrant Officer John D. Toliver, Operations Chief of the Information Operations and Communicators Working Group.

Originally proposed by Chile, the first Panamax took place in 2003. It came to fruition through coordinated efforts between Chile, Panama, and the United States. Since then, this military exercise has grown significantly over the years with the participation and assets used from several countries.

The 2014 multinational force includes military personnel and integrated staff members from Brazil, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States, and cooperation from the United Nations and Conference of Central American Armies.

This year’s mostly-simulated exercise will include the use of a B-52 to support maritime detection and monitoring, the first time in three years a live military asset is employed during exercise scenarios.

The main purpose of Panamax is to make sure the partner nations are better prepared to work together if the Panama government ever requests help in protecting commercial traffic through the canal — the 51-mile waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — and ensure its neutrality.

“The combined maritime interdiction operations during the exercise provide the opportunity to share techniques, tactics and procedures and improve the capacity to function as a multinational force,” said Juan Chavez, Chief Petty Officer of the Peruvian Navy and who is participating in this year’s exercise.

Panamax is one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world and this year takes place at Mayport, Jacksonville, Fla. where more than 600 military personnel gathered to participate, as well as locations in Texas, Miami, Mississippi and the Caribbean Sea.

USSOUTHCOM and Marine Corps Forces South personnel, headquartered in Miami, as well as personnel at Navy Forces South in Mayport Naval Station, and Air Forces Southern at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., are among the U.S. participants taking part in the exercise.

The Panama Canal is considered one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. Six-percent of the world’s trade travels through the Panama Canal every year, accounting for roughly 400 million tons of goods. It is crucial to the free flow of trade worldwide, and the region’s economic stability is largely dependent on the safe transport of several million tons of cargo through the canal each year.

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