As PANAMAX 2022 got underway on August 1, representatives from various countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean as well as Mexico and Spain, worked feverishly at the Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) headquarters located at the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Florida.
Everyone gathered at the SOCSOUTH headquarters of the Special Forces component, commanded by Peruvian Naval Captain Augusto Manucci – one of four partner nation component commanders. The other three component leads are Brigadier General Carlos Silva of the Colombian Air Force who serve as Commander of the Air Component; Rear Admiral Marcelo Fernandez of the Argentine Navy who leads the Maritime Component; and Major General Rodrigo Ferraz of the Brazilian Army, selected as Commander of the Combined Forces Land Component. The commanding general for PANAMAX 2022 is U.S. Army South Major General William Thigpen, with Chilean Army Logistics Division Commander Major General Ricardo Stangher serving as Deputy Commander.
For Capt. Manucci, this isn’t the first time he’s participated in PANAMAX. In 2013, he served as Chief of Logistics for the Special Forces component where he worked closely with his U.S. counterpart and came away with a great learning experience. This is Peru’s second time commanding the Special Forces component; the first was in 2020, but the exercise never reached execution due to the COVID pandemic.
“We were able to do the crisis planning [in 2020], but we we’re not able to carry out the execution. So, this year we are here from the beginning. We have done the crisis planning that we did in Panama where I also participated,” said Manucci. “For this exercise, as component lead, I am in charge of the planning and execution of special operations linked to the objectives given to us by General Thigpen.”
Manucci went on to stress the importance of participating in multinational exercises because it enables everyone to participate jointly, bringing their own level of expertise and shared experiences in real world operations. And while being selected to command the Special Forces component is an important step in his career, Manucci also recognizes the significance this has for junior officers in his country, especially the ones participating for the first time in PANAMAX.
“Many of them are broadening their knowledge and gaining that process of planning in a multinational operation which is very important so when they return to their country, they not only have the knowledge, but they also have the experience,” Manucci said. He also alluded to the bonds that are being created with their regional counterparts. “We are talking about South America, Central America, the United States, with whom they are now cultivating a great friendship, because we are here for two weeks. So they are working together for two weeks, they are becoming friends, and that is something that is very valuable; and I am convinced that they appreciate all those bonds of friendship that are being created.”
PANAMAX includes participants from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, and the United States.
The U.S.-sponsored exercise began in 2003 with three countries: Panama, Chile and the United States. Since then, PANAMAX has become one of the largest coalition command post exercises in the world.