Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PANAMAX 09 Completed Successfully

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Holly Boynton, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- After over a week of nearly constant activity and simulated battle operations, the maritime combined multinational staff supporting PANAMAX 09 completed the exercise and said farewell to the U.S. staff at U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet Sept. 21.

PANAMAX is an annual exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and designed to integrate a multinational task force in defense of the Panama Canal. The exercise scenario provides opportunities for countries to expand their training, giving them realistic practice in planning and executing combat operations, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

PANAMAX 09 included a multinational combined/joint task force of military units and personnel from 20 participating nations and observers from 11 nations. Thirty ships, 12 aircraft, and 4,500 people will coordinate efforts on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal.

A large staff of U.S. and foreign military members operated at the NAVSO/4th Fleet headquarters, and provided overall support to the exercise. Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, served as Commander, Combined Forces Maritime Component Command, and directed all maritime assets during PANAMAX 09.

"The defense of the Panama Canal is critically important to the world," said Guillory. "In participating in exercises like this, we have a greater understanding of its value."

The nearly 100 U.S. and partner nation military members departed Mayport with a better understanding of each other's operations and will share their knowledge with their host countries. The exercise successfully integrated the large multinational staff to effectively provide security and stability to the Panama Canal and the region overall.

As the Navy component command of SOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.