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FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- U.S. Army South, along with armed and security forces from 17 nations, officially kicked-off the annual U.S. Southern Command sponsored Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX exercise August 9, which will take place simultaneously in San Antonio, Miami, Suffolk, Va., and in Panama, Aug. 6-17.
Commonly known as PANAMAX, the exercise brings together sea, air and land forces in a joint and combined operation focused on defending the Panama Canal from attacks by a violent extremist organization as well as responding to natural disasters and pandemic outbreaks in various locations.
More than 50 Colombian military personnel traveled to Fort Sam Houston and are leading the land component portion of the exercise for the second year in a row. Army South led this portion every year prior to 2011. Brazilian military forces are leading the maritime component portion for the first time this year.
This year, in addition to the United States, Brazil and Colombia, hundreds of participants from Argentina, Belize, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru will take part in the overall exercise.
"The multinational staff shows the full interoperability of our forces and partner nations," said Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, U.S. Army South commanding general.
The simulated land component portion of the exercise will take place here at Army South's headquarters, while other portions of the exercise will take place in Florida, Virginia and Panama.
In addition to U.S. Southern Command and Army South, other U.S. armed forces commands participating in the exercise include Marine Forces South, Special Operations Command South and Naval Forces Southern Command with ships and a contingent of ordnance, mobile diving, logistics and security forces personnel.
"PANAMAX develops and sustains relationships that improve the capacity of our emerging and enduring partners' security forces to achieve common desired goals," said Trombitas. "This annual exercise fosters mutual cooperation and understanding among participating nations."
The Panama Canal is considered one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. It is critical to the free flow of trade worldwide and the region's economic stability is largely dependent on the safe transport of several million tons of cargo through the canal each year.
This major multinational exercise has grown dramatically since 2003, when Panama, Chile and the United States conducted the first exercise.
PANAMAX provides opportunities for the participating nations, along with Army South to join efforts to counter threats from transnational criminal organizations, while providing for humanitarian relief and security of the Panama Canal as deemed necessary by the Government of Panama and other nations in the region.