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Conceived in 2003, PANAMAX has become the one of the largest coalition Command Post exercises in the world. The exercise is focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of global infrastructure.
This year’s naval forces comprised the Combined Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) which included 54 personnel and 15 partner nations from the Caribbean, Central and South America. CFMCC forces were led by Argentine Navy Capt. Marcelo Luis Fernandez, who served as the CFMCC commander, and U.S. Navy Capt. Doug Sasse who served as his deputy commander.
“PANAMAX is about developing relationships and trust between partners,” said Sasse. “The training that took place addressed the full spectrum of maritime, air, land, space, and cyber operations and will improve our ability to command and control forces at sea. Through planning a complex, multinational operation, the PANAMAX team formed lasting bonds while working toward our collective goals that include ensuring theater security and enhancing regional stability.”
For CFMCC forces, PANAMAX 2021 began with a virtual subject matter expert exchange (SMEE), where U.S. and partner nation personnel worked with mentors from the U.S. Naval War College as a precursor to the main event.
The Naval War College is responsible for all U.S. Navy fleet operational level training, teaching every fleet staff the steps of the Navy Planning Process. The purpose of the SMEE was to get together with the lead nation, in this case Argentina, to plan the approach to the exercise.
Participants then met in person in Miami along with other SOUTHCOM component commands to execute the Planning in Crisis (PIC) event, where the exercise scenario was introduced. CFMCC forces used their collective knowledge to develop a blue force plan of defense for the Panama Canal.
In total, 18 countries and over 160 personnel gathered to participate in PANAMAX 2021. The exercise concludes on June 18 with the SOUTHCOM hosted tabletop exercise (TTX) and Senior Leader Seminar (SLS). These events will afford the opportunity amongst senior U.S. and partner nation military leaders to hold operational and strategic level discussions about issues related to coalition operations and hemispheric threats.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.
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