By Mr. Alex Delgado (ARSOUTH)September 10, 2010
Fort Sam Houston, Texas (August 27, 2010) - Two U.S. Army South teams traveled to Panama City, Panama and Norfolk, Va. to participate in Panamax 2010. They joined more than 2,000 participants from 17 countries in what has become one of the world's largest multinational training exercises.
The 12-day exercise, which was cosponsored by U.S. Southern Command and the Panamanian government, combined operations with sea, air, and land assets focused on defending the Panama Canal. The exercise enhanced cooperation between various nations in their response to a major threat to the Panama Canal and the execution of disaster relief missions in the region.
"This year's exercise simulated a 'terrorist organization' attack against the Panama Canal, plus the control of several countries of the area with the purpose of destabilizing the global economy," said Jesus Rodriguez Panamanian coordinator of the Panamax 2010.
These exercises helped prepare the U.S. and participating nations to protect the passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality, and respect national sovereignty.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to share and exchange information and learn from one another in a coalition and joint environment," said Navy Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet.
The U.S. military and Panamanian forces were joined by forces from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
This is a far cry from the original three-country maritime exercise first conducted by Panama, Chile, and the United States in 2003. Since then involvement in the exercise by other countries has been on the rise. Participation peaked in 2009 when 20 nations contributing more than 7,000 troops, 30 ships, and a dozen aircraft took part in the exercise.
"Panamax is an effective regional exercise that has grown from three original participating countries to as many as 20 in 2009, and has gone from solely a maritime exercise to one that also includes air and ground components," said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander, U.S. Southern Command. "The training and experiences offered by the exercise have become one we and our regional partners look forward to every year."
The Panama Canal opened in 1914 and almost one million vessels have used the canal. It is estimated that 5% of the world's trade uses the canal generating 800 million US dollars for the Panamanian treasury.