By MC1 Sean Allen
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet (C4F) presided over the closing ceremony of PANAMAX 2016 at the Ocean Breeze Conference Center at Naval Station Mayport, Aug. 4.

PANAMAX is one of the largest multinational military exercises in the world. The annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, which is crucial to the unrestricted flow of global maritime commerce.

Rear Adm. George W. Ballance, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, opened the closing ceremony by emphasizing the importance of the canal for all nations. 

"PANAMAX 2016 was a truly remarkable example of global interoperability and unified multinational forces working together, with the common goal of defending one of the most strategically and economically important pieces of infrastructure in the world," Ballance said.

Peruvian Rear Adm. Alberto Alcala served as the exercise's Combined Forces Maritime Component (CFMC) commander. Alcala had operational control of all simulated maritime components operating in and around the Panama Canal. 

"It is teamwork like this that will pay dividends in the future; 19-countries coming together to accomplish one mission," said Alcala. "It was an honor to [be] your [CFMC] commander." 

The exercise was conducted as a Command Post exercise, meaning no actual forces were used. The CFMCC staff was made up of 270 personnel, including support from the U.S. Navy Reserve and 80 partner nation representatives all came to Mayport to assist with operations and crisis action planning during the exercise.

PANAMAX included a series of simulated maritime exercises, led by the CFMC commander, designed to help the U.S. and partner nations work together to protect and defend the Panama Canal, increasing interoperability and capacity to work together as one multinational force.

This year's exercise included participants from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the United States.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order 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 regions.