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Joint force defends Panama Canal during exercise

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
An illegitimate organization seeks to undermine peace, security and liberty by destabilizing local and regional economies in Central America.

The organization is trying to disrupt operations and take over the Panama Canal -- a critical connection for global commerce and regional stability.

This is the scenario given to Airmen participating in exercise PANAMAX 2014, an annual U.S. Southern Command sponsored event that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.

The U.S. is obligated to defend the neutrality of the canal in times of peace and times of war under the Panama Canal Neutrality Act. The region's economy and political stability largely depend on the safe transport of several hundred million tons of cargo through the canal each year. PANAMAX 2014 is designed to ensure plans are in place to respond to requests from the Panama government to protect the canal.

In answer to the threats, the Multi-National Force-South, or MNF-S, stood up to support Operation Sea Stallion. MNF-S consists of naval, air, and ground assets from several countries from the region and across the globe.

The multi-national force included forces and integrated staff members from the civil, naval, land and air forces of Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the U.S. acting in cooperation with the United Nations.
Each year, SOUTHCOM and its air, sea and land components partner with representatives from a multitude of countries to exchange experience, expertise and new knowledge about each other's culture and people.

"Training with our partner nations at every possible opportunity is integral to mission success," said Col. Bruce Smith, who serves as the commander for Air Force Forces and is the Combined Forces Air Component commander for PANAMAX. "Working and training with one another strengthens our bonds and allows us to be more efficient and more effective in responding to regional threats and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations as one united front."

Since 2012, Brazil and Colombia have led the land and sea components of the exercise, and in 2014 Chile is leading the special operations component. It’s a key step in achieving full interoperability among all participant nations. All partner nations have benefited from the collaborative efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Panama Canal.

"This is a big opportunity for us to participate with other countries because we are so far away from the actual PANAMAX exercise," said. Col. Cristian Eguia, the Chilean air force liaison officer at 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern). "This exercise gives us an outlet to share what we do in our country and to show what we are doing in the PANAMAX exercise to protect the canal and it's a great opportunity to learn."

PANAMAX 2014 took place from Aug. 8-Aug. 15.