ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., Aug. 15 to participate in the multinational exercise PANAMAX (Panama Exercise) 2006.
PANAMAX 2006 is a multinational training exercise tailored to the defense of the Panama Canal, involving civil and military forces from the region. PANAMAX will exercise responses to requests from the Government of Panama to protect and guarantee safe passage through the Panama Canal, and ensure its neutrality.
Ships, aircraft, and personnel from 19 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay, will respond to a variety of simulated events affecting this most vital waterway.
Kearsarge will serve as the command and control platform for the multinational force conducting the exercise.
"This exercise gives us an opportunity to foster cooperation and build working relationships with our neighbors in the Caribbean, Central and South America," said Capt. Joseph Sensi, Kearsarge's commanding officer.
The multinational forces defending the canal will be organized under Combined Joint Task Force 138 and commanded by Rear Adm. James W. Stevenson Jr., commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO). The exercise is being conducted under the authority of U.S. Southern Command, as requested by the Government of Panama.
Other U.S. units participating in PANAMAX include USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Halyburton (FFG 40), USS Blackhawk (MHC 58), USS Warrior (MCM 10), USS Shrike (MHC 62), USS Heron (MHC 52) and USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913). Embarked staffs and units aboard Kearsarge include USNAVSO, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40, Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 4, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (HM) 14 and 15 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26.
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