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PANAMAX 2012 Spotlight with Maj. John Murtha

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Sapp
  • 183rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Maj. John Murtha, from Indianapolis, Ind., was legal counsel for the 183rd Fighter Wing and for the PANAMAX 2012 exercise at Air Forces Southern, Aug. 6-17. PANAMAX 2012 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 legal advisor to the Contingency Action Team (CAT) focusing primarily on fiscal law and international law. We made sure that money was allocated on the right products and services to complete the mission. We also ensured that U.S. government agreements with coalition brethren, in regards to jurisdiction over troops, requirements for documentation, and weapons were hashed out before hand. My role was to ensure that the U.S. acted within the scope of those agreements.

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

Answer: PANAMAX 2012 was a leadership exercise for commanders, partner nations and service members. My role was to give leadership the proper legal basis from which they can make decisions in conducting operations. We provided real world restrictions that would factor into their decision making processes.

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

Answer: In reference to international agreements, although they are pre-existing they are often open to interpretation. 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.

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

Answer: I had two goals here. The first was to gain an increased knowledge of the big picture view, specifically the Commander, Air Force Forces and the CAT. The second was in regards to the international law. I wanted to obtain a deeper understanding of the law and how it is involved when a real world situation arises, because often you don't know what you don't know until you have a chance to practice what you are taught. The exercise offered stimulus that reveals gaps in our knowledge.