PANAMAX 2012 Spotlight with Mr. Dana Willis Published Aug. 22, 2012 By Tech. Sgt. Andria Sapp 183rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Mr. Dana Willis was the Central America branch chief for PANAMAX 2012 for Air Forces Southern, Aug. 6-17. PANAMAX is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal - one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. Forces from partner nations participated in simulated training scenarios from various U.S. locations. The overall objective of this exercise was to increase interoperability among participating nations, which enables the assembled forces to organize and conduct combined operations in a multinational task force, and test its responsiveness. Question: What was your role in PANAMAX 2012? Answer: My role was to provide political/military advice to leadership on exercise inputs. I also served as the liaison with the security assistance offices and embassy country teams. Question: In what way did your role contribute to the overall objectives of PANAMAX 2012? Answer: I fostered interactions to strengthen relationships with partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. I also helped to facilitate PANAMAX 2012 pre-execution with Panamian National Aeronaval Services (SENAN) in defense of the canal. 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: In your role, how did you work with the partner nations to ensure the success of PANAMAX 2012? Answer: We lead teams in country to support SENAN, enabling them to fill their partner nation role. For example, last May we joined with the Missouri Army National Guard and Special Operations South to assess the fixed wing and helicopter fleet. We then provided observations and recommendations of things to do. In the near future, we will conduct another air staff talk with SENAN leadership to jointly plan activities, needs, funding, etc. for the next year. Question: What were the lessons learned that you took away from PANAMAX 2012? Answer: We further defined SENAN preparation needs in defense of the canal, and determined security assistance needed. Security is a necessary condition for prosperity and lasting democratic institutions. This exercise provided opportunities for the participating nations to join efforts to counter threats posed by violent and illegally armed groups, provide for humanitarian relief as necessary, and to defend the Panama Canal as deemed necessary by the government of Panama and other nations of the region.