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Senior Colombian air force officer takes part in PANAMAX 2012

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Sapp
  • 183rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Mario Espinosa, chief operations officer/doctrine officer for the Colombian air force, worked in planning operations for PANAMAX 2012 alongside Air Forces Southern, Aug. 6-17. PANAMAX is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. One of the most important benefits of multinational exercises like PANAMAX is the fact that all the participants were able to exchange their experiences, expertise gained new knowledge about each other's culture and people. These interactions strengthen our bonds across the region and foster long-lasting friendships and an understanding among the partner nations, ultimately benefiting the security of the region.

Question: What was your role in PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: I worked as Colombia's senior officer for the exercise. Last year I worked in the strategic command office, this year I am working in the combat division planning on the master air plan.

Question: The governments of the countries participating in PANAMAX 2012 share common interests and goals. How would you define those interests and goals?

Answer: We are all fighting for safety, against poverty, and against drugs. We are all working towards humanitarian relief. We agree with our coalition partners on the interests and goals; we differ slightly on how to accomplish them though. That is why this exercise is important. It allows us to see one another's perspectives and work together despite our different opinions.

Question: How is the security of the Panama Canal important to your country?

Answer: Although we have more means for commerce transportation now, we realize that the Canal is still very important to the world, and specifically our partner nations.

Question: What were the benefits of participating in this exercise?

Answer: It was a wonderful learning opportunity not only from a military perspective, but also from the culture perspective. Although it is an exercise, there are real world interactions and processes. We can train in other nations as well, but no other nations have the assets available that the U.S. does. The technology here takes the learning opportunity to a whole new level, in which we can all benefit from. I hope to have the opportunity to return for PANAMAX 2013 because I feel like this exercise is great and essential to our coalition.

Question: What did you take away from PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: The learning here is unique in the sense that it's not a classroom education, but instead it's getting hands-on and applying what you already know to how it fits into the bigger picture. It was important for us to learn the way the command and control is set up here so that we can see if there any ways to improve our processes at home. I want to say thank you to everyone that worked hard to bring us all together. This opportunity is unique and I am hoping that it continues for years to come - maybe, hopefully, one day Colombia can host a PANAMAX.