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News | Aug. 19, 2022

Former Argentine Liaison Officer to SOUTHCOM Returns to Command Naval Component during PANAMAX

By Steven McLoud / U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

With PANAMAX 2022 wrapping up last week, military personnel from participating nations began to make their way back to their respective homes after two weeks of working throughout various locations in the United States.

For Argentine Rear Admiral Marcelo Fernandez, who served as the Naval component lead for the exercise, the two weeks spent in Mayport, Florida brought back fond memories. From 2017 to 2019, he was known as Captain Fernandez while he was the Foreign Liaison Officer at U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

Fernandez came away with a very good experience as it gave him the opportunity to meet U.S. military and civilian personnel as well as military personnel from different armed forces in the region. “It allowed me to acquire knowledge about their capabilities, interests, organizational culture, history, traditions, and professional experiences, among other things,” he said, adding that those elements shared with his co-workers generated an environment in which he truly enjoyed and also developed bonds of mutual trust.

“I saw my time there as a very important challenge to contribute in different issues of common interest in the military field between Argentina and the U.S., and I was also able to interact with other liaison officers from other countries in the region, which gave me access to their views and positions on different issues, strictly inherent to the military field,” he said. “Having represented my country abroad has been a source of pride, particularly having worked in a place as important as the U.S. Southern Command.”

To come back to Florida for PANAMAX as the Commander of the Maritime Forces was a source of pride, and he felt the important responsibility to carry out the mission where he led the Naval component of more than 300 personnel from 16 countries in the region, each with different capabilities and different organizational cultures, but motivated and with an excellent predisposition for teamwork.

“The exercise allowed an excellent interaction between the personnel of the different countries, generating bonds of trust, so necessary for the work in an exercise of this nature. This made it possible to advance in very important aspects, contributing to improve interoperability between the different forces of the different countries in the region.”

PANAMAX, a bi-annual multinational exercise, develops and sustains relationships that enable partner-nation security forces in the region to achieve common goals, increase cooperation, and improve understanding.

Partner nation forces participated in simulated training at various U.S. locations including Joint Staff Exercise Directorate at Suffolk, Virginia; U.S. Southern Command, Doral, Florida; Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas; Homestead Air Reserve Base, Homestead, Florida; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona; and Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

This U.S.-sponsored exercise included 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.

PANAMAX 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. The exercise is focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of global infrastructure.