Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wasp Serves as Floating Command Center for FA PANAMAX 2007

By Mass Communciation Specialist 1st Class Barrie Barber, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs

Guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) moves into position forward of multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) during a photo exercise off the coast of Panama during PANAMAX 2007. Civil and military forces from 19 countries are participating in PANAMAX 2007, a U.S. Southern Command joint and multi-national training exercise co-sponsored with the government of Panama, in the waters off the coasts of Panama and Honduras. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Multinational naval and civil officers have joined forces at sea with the U.S. Navy aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) to strengthen cooperation among dozens of foreign vessels sailing near the Panama Canal in Exercise Fuerzas Alidas (FA) PANAMAX 2007, off the coast of Panama in the Caribbean.

PANAMAX personnel from several nations are directing maritime interoperability missions from inside the giant amphibious assault ship. Wasp is the lead vessel in the Aug. 29 through Sept. 7 exercise, which has brought together 19 countries to ensure the continued security of the neutral waterway and regional peace and prosperity.

“It is the creation of a brotherhood that we all congregate for one common good,” said Panamanian National Maritime Service Capt. Carlos Quiroz.

Wasp Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Kevin Gutierrez, an exercise translator, said multinational Sailors aboard the 844-foot warship, acting as as a floating airfield and hospital, were “amazed by the size and capacity of what we can do.”

The ship’s command and control role, high–tech equipment and interconnectivity are important to accomplish PANAMAX missions, said Peruvian Navy Capt. Cesar Linares, who works side-by-side with personnel from U.S. Navy Destroyer Squadron 40.

All nations bring lessons for their counterparts to learn on deck, said Uruguayan Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jose Matteo, who serves on the PANAMAX battle watch staff aboard Wasp.

“The most important lesson is to work all together,” he said. “It’s very, very important all nations take the same operational language.”

Sailors learn in different areas every day, said Chilean Navy Capt. Christian Wunderlich, a PANAMAX action officer aboard Wasp.

“This whole exercise is very useful for us,” he said. “It’s very useful because we are interacting with different navies with different languages, different procedures, different doctrines.”

PANAMAX Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers have multiple missions at sea, in the air and on land. Sailors, for example, work in tandem to hone visit, board, search and seizure procedures during Maritime Interdiction Operations. Multinational aircraft patrol above the exercise area to spot vessels. Land forces in Honduras handle simulated ground threats and provide humanitarian assistance, among other tasks.

“It’s a very complex operation, but very interesting,” Linares said.

The forces are participating in FA PANAMAX 2007, a U.S. Southern Command joint and multinational annual exercise in cooperation with the government of Panama. Participating nations have sent 30 vessels, a dozen aircraft and more than 7,000 personnel to participate in the exercise.

For more information on PANAMAX 2007, go to