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PANAMAX 2012 Spotlight with Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Barber

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Sapp
  • 183rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Barber, from the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill., was a member of the Air Forces Southern force protection cell for PANAMAX 2012, Aug. 6-17. PANAMAX is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. Forces from 17 nations worked together as part of a computer-simulated-exercise to provide a variety of responses to requests made by the governments of Panama and Colombia. These requests were geared at protecting and guaranteeing safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, ensuring its neutrality, and respecting national sovereignty.

Question: What was your role in PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: I was the force protection (FP) officer for the Commander, Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR). The FP section was responsible for making sure the down range Aerial Ports of Debarkation (APODs), which are the air component bases, were secure so that missions can fly. We were also responsible for making sure that resources are allocated for that mission. We ensured that any Air Force personnel working on the mission were safe and provided direct force protection advisor to the commander.

Question: In what way did your role contribute to the overall objectives of PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: We ensured the security of U.S. military and partner nations, mainly the air component forces. This was essential because if personnel aren't safe and secure at the APODs they are unable to do the mission. We also advised the commander on which APODs to use based on suitability of force protection requirements. Also, we worked with agents from the Office of Special Investigations and intelligence personnel in regards to the threat on the ground and in the air. Our mission was to keep the commander's forces safe and the mission going.

Question: In your role, how did you work with the partner nations to ensure the success of PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: It truly was a joint endeavor. By utilizing partner nation knowledge and forces, we were able to emphasize interoperability capabilities. This meant that we worked with our partnership nations (such as Colombia's or Panama's military forces, or police forces) to conduct security patrols outside of our APODs. Our partner nations helped to ensure our security, and did a great job doing so. We learned so much from one another. Coalition exercises like PANAMAX 2102 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.

Question: What were the lessons learned that you took away from PANAMAX 2012?

Answer: We provided a seamless force protection capability in a coalition multi-partnership environment. This allowed us to streamline our working relationships and our concepts of operations with our partnership nations. It was essential that we were able to communicate effectively and speak the same terminology in regards to how we secure air fields or how we secure resources. That is exactly why we train together.