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ANG partnership makes PANAMAX possible

Members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) and the Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill. work side-by-side as part of the Crisis Action Team, during PANAMAX 2014, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 12, 2014. The 183rd FW has been partnering with 12 AF (AFSOUTH) during PANAMAX for at least four years, bringing continuity and experience to the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather R. Redman/Released)

Members of 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) and the Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill. work side-by-side as part of the Crisis Action Team, during PANAMAX 2014, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 12, 2014. The 183rd FW has been partnering with 12 AF (AFSOUTH) during PANAMAX for at least four years, bringing continuity and experience to the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather R. Redman/Released)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- Approximately 65 members of the Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Illinois are renewing a longstanding partnership with 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) members during PANAMAX 2014, Aug. 8-15.

The annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise, which focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, is a collaborative effort between Air Force, Army and Marine personnel, as well as partner nations. But the relationship between 12 AF (AFSOUTH) and 183rd FW members is a particularly vital one.

The 183rd FW provides a welcome source of experience to draw from, according to Mr. Thomas Cheatham, the 12 AF (AFSOUTH) Operational Planning Team lead for PANAMAX 2014.

"With the amount of experience the 183rd has from participating in exercises like these over the years, they are able to not only fall in with, but also lead some of the efforts," Cheatham said. "They don't just augment [12 AF (AFSOUTH)], they compliment us."

Filling roles in the Combined Air Operations Center, intelligence, air mobility operations and the Crisis Action Team, the 183rd FW is providing significant support for PANAMAX 2014.

"We filled all of the positions [12 AF (AFSOUTH)] asked for our support with," said Lt. Col. Karen Hendrickson, Operations Director for the 183rd Air Component Operations Squadron and 12 AF (AFSOUTH) Crisis Action Team A3 for PANAMAX 2014. "Either they didn't have the personnel to fill it or they wanted to give the experience to our folks."

After at least four years of taking an active role in PANAMAX exercises, the 183rd FW has been able to develop proven rules of engagement that help ensure PANAMAX is successful.

"The military personnel here turnover on a regular basis and [guard members] have the potential to stay longer," Hendrickson said. "So [183rd members] might have some standing ROE of how we normally operate together. We've already got that interoperability."

While they bring a lot of experience to the exercise, Hendrickson and her fellow 183rd FW participants also benefit from the opportunity to exchange ideas with 12 AF (AFSOUTH) personnel and strengthen current methods of operation.

"I think both 12 AF (AFSOUTH) and 183rd personnel, because of their previous experience, may have another way of doing things and if you can combine that knowledge together then we can pass on information to someone who is new and doesn't have it," Hendrickson said. "Or if [12 AF (AFSOUTH) personnel] have figured out a better way to present it, then we can take that and pass it back to our folks. So, it's a sharing of experiences, processes and products."

As she comes to the end of her first PANAMAX exercise, Hendrickson said she will use her experiences from the exercise to better her unit and future PANAMAX exercises.

"I'm always looking for how the unit can operate better, how can we take lessons from this and train our next team that comes down," Hendrickson said. "I've identified skill sets from our personnel where I think, this person in this area can influence how we operate."

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