Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Twenty Nations Kick Off Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2008

An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to Mine Counter-Measures Squadron (HM) 15 lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1) as the ship sails south toward the Panama Canal Zone to participate in the multinational training exercise Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2008. This will be the final exercise for Tarawa before decommissioning in early 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel A. Barker/Released)

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA (NNS) -- A formal opening ceremony for Fuerzas Aliadas (FA) PANAMAX 2008, a U.S. Southern Command joint and multinational training exercise cosponsored with the government of Panama, was held in Panama City Aug. 11.

Representatives from each of the 20 participating countries joined Rodrigo Cigarruista, vice minister of Public Security of Panama and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Robert C. Parker, director, security and intelligence for U.S. Southern Command, at the ceremonial table.

Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2008 is taking place in the waters off the coasts of Panama and on land in El Salvador and Honduras from Aug. 11-22 with participation of civil and military forces from 20 countries.

More than 30 vessels, a dozen aircraft and 7,000 personnel are involved in the exercises focused on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal. Simulated ground forces are also participating at Comalapa Air Base in El Salvador and Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.

"The objective of this exercise is to bring our unique abilities together in a common cause: defense of the Panama Canal and the region," said Parker. "The importance of the Panama Canal to the world's economy and the stability enjoyed by the region make them both attractive targets to those who would do harm to either."

"The protection of the canal and maintaining stability in the region is truly a worthy goal and one whose achievement benefits all," Parker said.

Cigarruista also emphasized the importance of creating the legal, institutional and operational framework necessary to ensure the safeguarding of the Panama Canal.

Participating forces will comprise Multi-National Force South under a combined joint task force led by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber, commander, U.S. Army South.

The FA PANAMAX 2008 exercise scenario includes sea-based training devoted to maritime interdiction operations, and visit, boarding, search and seizure. Land-based training in El Salvador and Honduras will focus on command and control, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief operations.

Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2008 participating nations include: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. France, Mexico, Paraguay, and Spain are scheduled to participate as observers. The Conference of Central American Armies, the Organization of American States and the United Nations will also participate.