By Spc. Wayne Emerson, 36th Infantry Division Public AffairsAugust 19, 2008
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras (Aug. 16, 2008) - Fires raging, bullets flying, refugees scrambling for safety and the economy coming to a stand still - these are all scenarios that played out during the multi-national military exercise Fueras Aliadas (Allied Forces) PANAMAX 2008 in Central America.
The Panama Canal is a strategic waterway vital to the economies of not only the United States but to every country in the region as well. More than 280 million tons of cargo moves through the canal every year and if attacked then the effects would be disastrous. The 36th Infantry Division was among the many military units participating in the operation.
PANAMAX is an exercise simulating attacks on the Panama Canal and allows multi-national forces to practice their response if it were ever to occur. The first of these exercises started in 2003 with just three countries participating, and now the operation has expanded to include 20 nations.
The division is the headquarters for all simulated land forces in the region during the exercise under the title of the Combined Forces Land Component Command, or CFLCC, out of Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.
"I don't know if people realize what a big deal this is and how fortunate we are to be the CFLCC headquarters in such an important international exercise," commented the division commander Maj. Gen. Jose Mayorga.
CFLCC is the notional joint service headquarters operating with members of the Army, Air Force, Marines and ten other officers from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Chile.
"It's a great opportunity for us to practice working with partner nations and their officers," said Col. Jeffrey Breor the CFLCC operations officer.
He went on to say that the design of the exercise is to demonstrate command and interoperations of a multi-national force.
"PANAMAX helps this division immensely, not only with events in this exercise but it also helps us to prepare for future deployments," added Maj. Gen. Mayorga.
The 36th ID has already committed to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the war on terror including deploying the 56th Brigade Combat Team to Iraq later this year.
PANAMAX allows the division's various sections to operate as teams, with each other, and with other nations - all essential tasks for the international challenges to come.