Air Forces Southern and military members from 17 partner nations embark on PANAMAX 2012 exercise Published Aug. 10, 2012 By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- Air Forces Southern and partner nations from 17 different countries officially kicked-off the annual U.S. Southern Command sponsored PANAMAX 2012 exercise last night. The exercise, which is taking place Aug. 6-17, is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. The canal is one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. The exercise provides opportunities for the 17 participating nations, along with Air Forces Southern, to join efforts to participate in computer simulated training scenarios to counter threats from transnational criminal organizations, while providing for humanitarian relief and security of the Panama Canal as deemed necessary by the Government of Panama and other nations in the region. The overall objective of this exercise is 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. Training in this exercise will test command and control of forces across the spectrum of operations, including maritime, air, land, space, and cyber. "PANAMAX 2012 provides invaluable training on coalition command and control and combined interoperability," said Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern Commander). "Working side-by-side provides not only training to defend the Panama Canal, but also paves the way for relationship building with our partner nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean." PANAMAX provides all the partner nations the opportunity to improve interoperability and an opportunity to conduct valuable subject matter expert exchanges benefitting the safety and security of the region. This year, there an increased leadership role has been taken by all the partner nations. Specifically, Colombia will once again lead the ground component and Brazil will lead the maritime component for the first time. "Partner nation relationships and training opportunities are essential when it comes to humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations in our area of responsibility," Rand said. "Without continuous training, relief operations such as during the 2010 Haiti earthquake wouldn't be possible." In addition to SOUTHCOM and Air Forces Southern, other U.S. armed forces commands participating in the exercise include Army South, Marine Forces South, Special Operations Command South and Naval Forces Southern Command. Forces from partner nations participating in PANAMAX 2012 will participate in simulated training at various U.S. locations, including Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas; Miami; and Naval Station Mayport, Fla.