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Air Forces Southern provides air power during multi-national military exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Sapp
  • 183rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Panama Canal is under siege by a violent extremist organization. The organization's goal is to discredit the Colombian and Panamanian governments, boost popular support, and discredit western capitalist influence, according to intelligence reports.

This is all an exercise.

PANAMAX 2012 was an exercise conducted here Aug. 6-17. Department of Defense personnel, partner nation militaries and 250 Airmen from Air Forces Southern and the 183rd Air Operations Group participated in the multi-national military exercise. The exercise is an annual event that serves to facilitate multi-national planning, coordination and execution. This year's PANAMAX coordinated hundreds of daily sorties, using a wide variety of U.S. Air Force aircraft ranging from fighters, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Tankers, as well as Rescue Helicopters.

Seventeen countries joined together in ten days of intensive strategizing in an effort to be prepared to overcome a real world situation similar to the scenario. Ground, air and sea strategies were used in a combined, multi-national effort to put down the simulated threat.

Participants formulated and virtually-executed a variety of responses to requests from the Government of Panama to protect and guarantee safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, as well as ensure its neutrality and respect national sovereignty.

"It was a joint endeavor utilizing partner nation knowledge and forces that emphasized interoperability capabilities," said Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Barber, force protection from the 183rd Fighter Wing's Air Operation Group. "Coalition exercises like PANAMAX 2012 provide all the partner nations the opportunity to improve interoperability and an opportunity to conduct valuable subject matter experts benefitting the safety and security of the region."

The 612th Combined Air and Space Operations Center served as the around-the-clock operational Command and Control center for the joint operations. PANAMAX allowed for a unique training opportunity for 17 participating countries to work together. This partnership opportunity is a critical aspect to the success of the exercise.

"In reference to international agreements, although they are pre-existing they are often open to interpretation," said Maj. John Murtha, legal counsel for the 183rd Fighter Wing. "Having coalition nations working together allowed for other perspectives to be brought to life that wouldn't otherwise be there if we worked separately. This exercise enhanced those links by fostering friendly, mutual cooperation."

Seventeen countries participated in PANAMAX 2012; Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the United States. U.S. forces that participated in this year's PANAMAX exercise include staff elements from U.S. Southern Command, Air Forces Southern, U.S. Army South, U.S. Marine Forces South, Special Operations Command South, and Naval Forces South/U.S. 4th Fleet.