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Airmen participate in joint exercise along the Panama Canal

  • Published
  • By 1Lt. Christina Mundy
  • Twelfth Air Force and Air Forces Southern Public Affairs
Water breaks, contrails shine and dust rises as the total force of Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers came together during the U.S. Southern Command sponsored, joint and multi-national training exercise, Fuezas Aliadas [Allied Forces] PANAMAX 2007, Aug. 29-Sept. 7.

The joint exercise focuses on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal by incorporating both air and ground forces with traditional maritime components. The Air element of the exercise includes more than 250 Airmen assigned to Twelfth Air Force, Air Forces Southern and the 612th Air Operations Group, are providing a wide rage of operational support.

"PANAMAX is giving Air Forces Southern an excellent opportunity not only to work with 20 of our partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also our fellow operational level headquarters (U.S. Army Forces South, Special Operations Component U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command) and higher headquarter USSOUTHCOM," said Col. John Marselus, commander of the James H. Doolittle Combined Air and Space Operations Center.

"Twelfth Air Force and Air Forces Southern [incorporated] several key concepts in this exercise that we use every day in our real-world operations," said Col. Marselus. "[Incorporating] these concepts, which include five Air Component Coordinating Elements (ACCEs) and an Air Operations Center Communications Enhancement Package (ACEP) gives us reach-back capabilities that allow us to be fully prepared to handle numerous operations simultaneously and be tied into our fellow components."

This operation represents both hats that Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, Twelfth Air Force and Air Forces Southern Component Commander, wears as the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) and Commander Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR) during real world and exercise operations.

"By employing key concepts during PANAMAX, we are able to reach back to our CAOC- in Arizona- and run all air, space, and information operations from one central location," said Colonel Marselus. "The fact that General Seip is the theater CFACC for all air, space, and information operations supporting the many Joint Task Forces and Joint Interagency Air Task Forces in our area of responsibility also brought home the increased flexibility of moving assets between the varying task forces to best support all of the operations occurring throughout the entire USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility."

The exercise is comprised of civilian and military forces from 20 participating countries. The participating nations include: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay and the United Kingdom are participating as observers.

"At the same time as PANAMAX, the AFSOUTH CAOC was challenged with running real world operations in our AOR in support of four task forces and the category five Hurricane Felix simultaneously," said Colonel Marselus. "The single theater CFACC principle paid great dividends as situational awareness was maintained in one single air operations center under the command of one Airman to provide synergy and economy of effort."

The PANAMAX 2007 exercise scenario includes sea training devoted to maritime interdiction operations. Additionally, land-based training in Honduras is focusing on command and control, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

"We share many common interests with the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and exercising security operations like this is critical to ensuring we keep the necessary conditions for prosperity and lasting democratic institutions," said Col. Marselus. "We are committed to lasting partnerships and the regional challenges we face together that require cooperative solutions between all of us partner nations."