HOMESTEAD ARB, Fla. (August 10, 2012) -- Servicemembers assigned to Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), along with representatives from nine countries, came together to support this year’s PANAMAX exercise at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Aug 10.
The intent of the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-sponsored annual military exercise is to train in a variety of responses, in coordination with the governments of Panama and Colombia, in order to protect and guarantee safe passage of commercial traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality, and respect national sovereignty.
As the special operations component for USSOUTHCOM, SOCSOUTH must be prepared to deploy anywhere in the Caribbean, Central or South America at a moment’s notice in the event of a crisis requiring special operations capabilities.
Army Lt. Col. Ricardo Bautista, who serves as one of SOCSOUTH’s lead operations officers for this exercise, explained the importance of the exercise as a platform which allows military and security forces from different nations to work together so they can share their practices and experiences in order to defend the Panama Canal.
“Military exercises like PANAMAX help us exercise our mission essential tasks in the event we have to deploy to the region in support of securing the Panama Canal and ensuring commercial commerce is unaffected,” he said. “PANAMAX is also important because we work with our partner nations in order to keep good interoperability with them through mutual cooperation. It is very important to keep these relationships strong.”
This year, SOCSOUTH is working with military members from Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru.
Not only does these exercises contribute to improving interoperability between multiple nations, but it also help build the capabilities to plan and execute complex multinational operations no matter what the situation.
“As Special Operations, we have to be ready to deter any acts by hostile forces or groups,” said Colombian Lt. Col. Eduardo Charry-Mora, who is serving as the senior special operations foreign officer for PANAMAX. “This exercise allows us to train together and give us the capacity to work together in a combined planning group. By getting to know each other, we can build relationships for years to come.”
SOCSOUTH is a sub-unified command of U.S. Southern Command and serves as the functional component for all special operation missions deployed throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America regions. SOCSOUTH is responsible for the planning and execution of all Special Operations Forces (SOF) within U.S. Southern Command's AOR to include: U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets), U.S. Naval Special Warfare Units (SEALs), U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Aviation, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support Teams. Typical SOCSOUTH Headquarters deployments include a rapid response for contingencies, exercises, and other missions, as directed by Commander, U.S. Southern Command.