By MC2 Michael Hendricks

COMUSNAVSO Public Affairs

PANAMAX 2017 concluded at U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT), Aug. 17.  

Since its inception in 2003, PANAMAX has become one of the largest multinational training 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.

USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT hosted approximately 180 U.S. and partner nation personnel comprising the Combined Force Maritime Component Command (CFMCC) during the command post exercise.

This year's exercise included participating forces from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States.

PANAMAX 2017 was led by Colombian Navy Rear Adm. Vasquez Villegas, who served as the CFMCC commander, and Rear Adm. Linda Wackerman who served as his deputy commander.

 "This exercise focuses on the security of the Panama Canal, and maintaining stability in the region," said Wackerman. "The Panama Canal is a critical piece of infrastructure global impact. This is a great opportunity to work with our partner nations to develop friendships, to improve interoperability, and to train together to combine the effects of those capabilities."

"PANAMAX is a good opportunity for the integration of the international force," said Villegas. "17 countries are participating in this exercise, during which we simulated an attack on the Panama Canal, with the intent to learn each other's capabilities, to better protect the canal."

The exercise develops and sustains relationships that improve the capacity of emerging and enduring partners' security forces to achieve common goals, while fostering friendly cooperation.

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 partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.