JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
U.S. Army South hosted more than 300 Soldiers, service members and civilians from 16 nations at several training sites on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston for PANAMAX 2018, the U.S. Southern Command’s largest joint military training exercise in the Western Hemisphere.
During Operation Futuro Noble, the name of the operation in defense of the Panama Canal, participants worked around the clock, learning to collaborate and work together as part of a joint task force in order to strengthen interoperability and enhance security cooperation. Effectively conducting joint operations is critical when responding to natural disasters, humanitarian assistance missions or real-world threats.
Cultural and language barriers were no obstacle for this professional joint, multinational coalition with the common goal of defending the Panama Canal and surrounding regions from a variety of realistic mock attacks including land, air, sea and cyber, among others.
“PANAMAX is about personal relationships and organizational partnerships. It’s about bringing like- minded countries together and going after tactical and operational kinds of problems,” said Maj. Gen. Mark R. Stammer, U.S. Army South commanding general. “Within this training environment, we work on our interoperability and doctrine, so if called upon by our governments to go and do this in an operational environment, we know each other’s doctrine and how to communicate effectively.”
Operating under a United Nations Security Council Resolution, this joint coalition – referred to as the Multinational Forces South, or MNFS – was led by senior leaders from Peru, Chile, Brazil and the U.S. Participants included U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as partner nation militaries, defense forces and civil agencies.
As the land component to U.S. Southern Command, Army South works closely with partner nation militaries from Central, South America and the Caribbean to strengthen and build capability. In an effort to maximum training opportunities, key leadership roles and responsibilities within the exercise change annually. Leading the Combined Forces Land Component Command, or CFLCC, element this year was the Colombian Army.
“This exercise is an excellent opportunity to integrate different cultures, concepts and military doctrines. It’s a realistic multinational operation in which different doctrines, and styles come together for a shared mission and operate in a joint environment,” said Brig. Gen. Geraldo Melo, Colombian Army, CFLCC commander. “The ability to use all of the technologies available, including information operations and to be able to execute a joint mission with others countries effectively, is rewarding.”
PANAMAX began in 2003 with three participants: Panama, Chile and the U.S. Today, it has grown into one of the largest joint military training exercises in the western hemisphere, with more than 2000 participants working together simultaneously from various locations, including U.S. Southern Command Headquarters, Miami, Florida; Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, Florida; Naval Station Mayport, Florida; JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
Participating nations included: Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Representatives from Poland, Spain, and Thailand joined the exercise this year as observers.
Planning is currently underway for PANAMAX 2019.