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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

U.S. military exercises in August and September

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

Entire Region, Colombia

  • The 54th annual edition of “UNITAS,” a U.S. - South American sponsored naval exercise, kicked off on September 9th. “Operating in the Caribbean waters off Colombia through Sept. 15,“ read a Southern Command release, ”the participants in Unitas 2013 will focus on coalition building, multilateral security cooperation, tactical interoperability and mutual understanding among the participants.” Another document explains, “During 10 days at sea, 19 ships conducted a full spectrum of maritime operations, including electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime interdiction operations.”

Entire Region, Panama

  • PANAMAX 2013, a joint exercise between the United States and 17 other Latin American nations, spanned from August 12th to 16th. Its focus was to develop participating nations’ capacity “to plan and execute complex multilateral operations … under the support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”


  • On September 4th, U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited with Belizean military and civilian defense officials to discuss “security engagement and joint activities” between the United States and Belize. Part of the talks included the humanitarian assistance exercise “New Horizons,” which seeks to improve interoperability and joint humanitarian response techniques. A similar exercise will take place in 2014.

El Salvador

  • On August 14th high-ranking U.S. and Salvadoran military officials met to identify and discuss strategies for improving interoperability. The meeting culminated in both Major General Joseph DiSalvo of SOUTHCOM and Salvadoran Brig. Gen. William Armando Mejia signing a memorandum of understanding. The major issues guiding cooperation were identified prior to the signing in a number of steering sessions that led to the development of a “bilateral engagement plan that includes knowledge, capabilities and support for current and future peace-keeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other combined operations.”


  • Texas National Guardsmen and Border Patrol tactical units teamed up to lead a training program for Guatemalan soldiers and federal police from the newly created Tecún Umán Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). The program addressed a number of skills including “fundamentals of marksmanship, weapons maintenance, sand table preparations, mounted and dismounted operations, and gunnery skills.” The spirit of the training course was one of building connections between the two nations’ armed forces, with U.S. and Guatemalan soldiers working side by side in on simulated missions during the day and sharing the same barracks at night.


  • Thirteen advisors from the United States’ Mobility Support Advisory Squadron led a 35 day training seminar in Honduras to train 50 partner nation personnel on aircraft maintenance, secure communications, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

  • On August 23rd, airmen from Joint Task Force Bravo engaged in a joint exercise with Honduran forces, simulating a response to a downed aircraft. The exercise took place outside of the boundaries of the Soto Cano Airbase in Comayagua, adding a greater degree of reality to the simulation. Joint Security Forces Commander Robert Shaw noted that “This is a way for our joint security force members to be tested in their individual and collective tasks."

Trinidad and Tobago

  • U.S. Green Berets and Special Forces units from Trinidad and Tobago engaged in a four week Joint Combined Exchange Training Program. The month long Special Operations Forces training activity allowed members of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) to work on interoperability and bilateral relations, to train in an unfamiliar environment, and to improve their tactics and area knowledge. SOCSOUTH planners intend to hold similar events with several other countries in the coming months.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

U.S. military exercises in June and July

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.


  • In the final segment of the “Tradewinds 2013” exercise, the US Coast Guard and forces from six Caribbean nations, working in Port Castries, St. Lucia, simulated a takedown and boarding scenario as part of a counter-narcotics exercise.

Central American Regional

  • Joint Task Force-Bravo, a Honduras-based component of Southern Command, carried out multiple medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) “with partner country militaries in underserved areas, as well as counter narcotics-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and capacity building activities that promote enduring security cooperation,” reports International Health, a U.S. military website.

Chile, Colombia, El Salvador

  • In early June, Joint Task Force Jaguar, a Southern Command unit set up to coordinate the “Beyond the Horizon” humanitarian exercise in El Salvador, oversaw members of the U.S., Salvadoran, Chilean, Colombian and Canadian militaries as they completed construction, dental, medical, and veterinary assistance projects in a rural area of El Salvador. U.S. Army South, the Southern Command’s army component, reported that the logistical preparations that took place to get the 1,400 U.S. military personnel to El Salvador involved “the same procedures they’d follow for missions ranging from a wartime deployment to a disaster response in the homeland.”

Colombia, Haiti

  • As part of a training program, 350 Haitian female police recruits were selected to travel to Colombia to train with U.S. and Colombian police. The program is part of an effort by the Haitian government to try to increase its police force from the current 10,000 officers to 15,000 officers by 2016. Other training programs for Haitian women take place in Chile, Canada, and the United States.

El Salvador

  • A “multi-national C-TOC [counter transnational organized crime operations] mission using advanced sensors to detect allusive smugglers using littoral waterways to move illegal contraband, to include narcotics, drug money and people, across international borders” began in June in El Salvador, according to Southern Command. The Salvadoran Coast Guard worked with U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection officers to prepare for this activity, which is part of Operation Martillo, “a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.”


  • During a command change ceremony on June 21, Joint Task Force-Bravo ushered in a new commander, Army Col. Thomas D. Boccard, at its headquarters at the Soto Cano airbase in Comayagua, with Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of Southern Command, officiating.
  • As part of a joint exercise, Joint Task Force-Bravo “simulated a two-fold scenario simultaneously, one a nonviolent demonstration and the other being an attack from a terrorist organization July 17.”


  • El Nuevo Diario reports that between March and April members of the Nicaraguan Navy traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to receive training in communications and military tactics from U.S. military specialists. In June, U.S. personnel traveled to Nicaragua to continue and expand this training.


  • Southern Command reports that over the course of four months, U.S. military personnel along with medical professionals from Panama’s Ministry of Health, provided medical care to approximately 13,000 people as part of the “Beyond the Horizon 2013” exercise.
  • According to Southern Command, a June 18 ceremony marked the end of the “Beyond the Horizon 2013” humanitarian exercise during which “U.S. military engineers and medical professionals conducted real-world training while providing needed services to communities throughout the country.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

U.S. military exercises in April and May


  • On May 15th, 24 members of the Belize National Coast Guard and 5 members of the Belizean Anti-Drug Unit (ADU) graduated from a Special Warfare Operations Course. This 5-week training course, supervised and conducted in Belize by Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen of the U.S. Navy, “covered Navigation, Small-Boat Handing, Communications, Board Search and Seizure, Vectoring, Radar and GPS Operation, Weapon-Handling Skills, and Waterborne Techniques.”
  • “Approximately 90 airmen deployed from Hurlburt Field, Florida, are building school structures from the ground up throughout Belize as part of an exercise known as New Horizons,” reports the U.S. 12th Air Force. “The first of the airmen assigned to the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, commonly known as RED HORSE, began to arrive in Belize in February to begin pre-construction activities and set up logistics for the three-month training exercise that started April 1 and is scheduled to run through the end of June.”

Belize, El Salvador, Panama

  • “From April through June 2013, U.S. military personnel will be in Belize, El Salvador, and Panama to conduct comprehensive humanitarian civic assistance exercises,” reports U.S. Southern Command. “As part of the Beyond the Horizon and New Horizons exercise programs, troops specializing in engineering, construction and health care are providing needed services to communities while receiving valuable deployment training and building important relationships with partner nations.”


  • On May 20-22 Brazil and the United States held their 29th annual army-to-army staff talks. These meetings “help strengthen professional partnerships and increase interaction between armies” and often result in “various events, training, exercises and exchanges together.” reports U.S. Army South, a component of U.S. Southern Command. This year, “the two delegations drafted a list of 29 Agreed to Actions (ATAs) that covered a wide range of professional exchanges designed to improve the working relationship between the two armies.”

Caribbean Regional

  • As part of a “a test to see if the relatively low-cost drone, which runs on battery power, could be an alternative to manned aircraft such as the P-3 Orion, which requires a crew of seven and guzzles fuel,” reports the Miami Herald, naval officers practiced launching the Puma, a waterproof 13 pound drone that they hope will help in drug-smuggling detection. U.S. forces are employing at least 10 Pumas within the Central American and Caribbean waters. The exercise also involved a 321-foot helium-filled blimp, the TIF-25K Aerostat, also to be used over Caribbean waters to detect drug smuggling ships.

  • “Tradewinds 2013 was a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored training exercise conducted in the Caribbean Basin which focused on improving cooperation and security in the region,” reports U.S. Southern Command. “The joint and interagency exercise was held in St. Lucia from May 20 – June 6. The exercise includes participants from the U.S. military and U.S. law enforcement agencies who are joined counterparts from 14 partner nations, primarily from the Caribbean Basin.” Adds another Southcom release, “Uniformed service members and maritime police officers from four partner nations bolstered their maritime enforcement capabilities in a live-fire gunnery exercise off the coast of Saint Lucia during Tradewinds 2013.”

Colombia, Guatemala

  • Civil affairs officers from U.S. Southern Command and Special Operations Command South worked “to develop a strategy to increase Guatemala’s Civil Affairs capacity to disrupt transnational organized criminal activities in minimally governed areas” during a Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) that took place in Guatemala City from April 23-25 between the United States, Colombia and Guatemala. The SMEE, led by Colombia, “was designed to provide the Civil Affairs representatives with a forum for sharing best practices in Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs Operations (CAO) and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities to complement U.S. Southern Command efforts in Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC).”

El Salvador

  • Task Force Jaguar, organized by the Southern Command’s U.S. Army South, completed a mass casualty exercise in El Salvador in April. The activity took place before the launch of the Beyond the Horizon 2013 humanitarian exercise. “The mass casualty exercise is designed to simulate the stress caused during a real crisis” and “was just one step in the validation process required for the unit to maintain operations” in El Salvador. Additionally, “over the course of two days, safety, personnel recovery, and force protection inspectors from Army South evaluated the safety measures and tactics employed by the task force.”

  • Beyond the Horizon will operate in El Salvador until June. An Army press release describes it as “a joint and combined field training humanitarian exercise in which U.S. active duty, National Guard, and Reserve servicemembers specializing in engineering, construction and health care, working along-side partner nation personnel, provide much-needed services to communities in need while receiving valuable deployment training and building important relationships with partner nations.”

  • An April 16th Army release noted that since their arrival in El Salvador on the 30th of March, the Beyond the Horizon group’s work “constructing schools and latrines on three sites” is on track.

  • On February 28th, eleven Salvadoran airmen returned to San Salvador after being deployed to Afghanistan by the United States. During their time in Afghanistan they worked as aviation advisers and International Security Assistance Force liaison officers. “The training that the Salvadoran airmen went through is similar to what U.S. service members receive in preparation for deployment. The Salvadorans also received psychological and medical evaluations and other exams to ensure they were fit for a combat mission”

Guatemala, Honduras

  • Following the completion of three weeks of “joint training and partnership building” in Guatemala, the Southern Partnership Station 2013 naval exercise moved to Honduras in April. SPS 2013 is working to train armed forces in “the areas of explosive ordnance disposal, land navigation, live-fire exercises, river operations and arrest procedures.”


  • Joint Task Force-Bravo, a U.S. Southern Command component based at the Soto Cano air base near Comayagua, Honduras, reports that it “partnered with four female Honduran National Police Officers, Community Engagement Section, to mentor young women aged 17-27 at the Arts for Humanity Women’s Leadership Center, as part of a commitment to assist in the development of partnership capacity in El Socorro, Honduras, April 18. Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Army Forces Battalion, Engineer Section and Medical Element taught classes on leadership and ethics, basic first aid, and conducted a technical engineering assessment of the center’s infrastructure.”

  • On April 23rd, Joint Task Force-Bravo’s mobile surgical team (MST) worked with a group of Honduran surgeons at the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa. This medical surgical team works with local surgeons in La Paz, Comayagua, and Tegucigalpa on a regular basis, helping to train medical students as part of Medial Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) programs. According to a Southern Command release, “the surgical MEDRETES allows the MST to exercise their surgical skills while providing relief to the saturated medical staff at Hospital Escuela.”

  • As part of a May 6th MEDRETE in the Cuesta de la Virgen community, members of Joint Task Force-Bravo worked with the Honduran Ministry of Health and Honduran military personnel to provide medical attention to more than 500 residents. In addition to teaching about preventative medicine, nutrition, and proper hygiene, “villagers were provided the opportunity to meet with a nurse, dentist or medical provider depending on their needs to receive assistance which ranged from routine medical checkups, basic immunizations, deworming medicine for children, tooth extractions and gynecological services.”

  • “Seventeen service members from Joint Task Force-Bravo were recalled and transported to Puerto Castilla to join the Honduran Comision Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO), during a Central America Survey and Assessment Team (C-SAT) exercise, May 15-16,” reports the Honduras-based U.S. Southern Command component. “The team partnered with COPECO to run through a simulated hurricane landfall disaster scenario and determine the actions each agency would accomplish during a disaster.”


  • The Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) announced on May 9th that Mexico’s Army will participate in a joint training exercise with the United States and Canada. Ardent Sentry, an exercise that U.S. Northern Command holds each year in the United States, will help develop a joint action plan in case of any disaster in the area of the borders between the countries. The training, which will cover appropriate responses to any biological, chemical, radiological and natural disasters that could potentially happen, will take place in Florida, South Carolina, and Montana.


  • U.S. Army South marked the official start of Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 during an April 17 ceremony at Fort Sherman, once a U.S. Army base near Colón, Panama. “U.S. military engineers and medical professionals arrived to conduct real-world training while providing needed services to communities throughout the country,” reads a U.S. Army South release.

  • As part of Beyond the Horizon 2013, 28 U.S. Air Force airmen from the 203rd “Redhorse” Squadron, 192nd Fighter Wing, an Air Guard unit out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia and the 200th Squadron, 179th Fighter Wing, out of Mansfield, Ohio, are working with Panamanian personnel to build a health center in the rural area of Escobal, Panama. Upon completion of the health center, the airmen will build a dormitory for employees.

  • In April, as part of a three-day MEDRETE, approximately 50 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel provided medical, dental, and humanitarian, and veterinarian services to the residents of Cerro Plata, Panama. This MEDRETE is another component of the Beyond the Horizons 2013 exercise, which will take place until August. Army South reports that these programs “consist of a team of military medical and dental professionals who work in austere areas to gain valuable military experience, while also providing medical services to people in need of treatment.”

  • As part of Beyond the Horizon 2013, a U.S. Army officer assigned to Task Force Panama conducted a training session for some members of the National Air and Navy Service of Panama (SENAN). The session included training in “the proper use of under-carriage vehicle inspection mirrors and metal detecting wands for use on individuals” which “will add another layer of security to the force protection the SENAN already have in place.”

  • In Colón, Panama on April 30th members of the Rhode Island National Guard visited Hospital Colon and met with the hospital’s medical director. During the meeting, the two parties worked “to sustain a cooperative relationship with the local hospital to ensure appropriate medical treatment of U.S. and Panamanian security forces operating” in and around the area through the Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 program.

Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

U.S. military exercises in February and March

U.S. military personnel carry out a very regular schedule of exercises and training deployments throughout Latin America. Here, based on official releases and press reports, is a glimpse of these activities in February and March, in alphabetical order by country.


  • Leading up to the “New Horizons” humanitarian exercise scheduled to take place in the spring, construction equipment and materials are scheduled to being arriving into ports in Belize. The exercise is being overseen by U.S. Southern Command and planned by Air Forces Southern. It will last approximately 90 days and involve construction projects as well as medical service events.

Central America

  • The U.S. Navy 4th Fleet’s Southern Partnership Station 2013 exercise involves port visits to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras by the USNS Swift, a high-speed catamaran. “The assigned units are focusing on locally identified needs, such as port security, noncommissioned officer professional development, operational risk management, medical readiness, outboard motor maintenance and patrol-craft operation.” In Belize, U.S. Seabees and Riverine Squadron 2 members helped with infrastructure building and training. In Guatemala, the assistance focuses on explosive ordnance disposal teams, as well as improving infrastructure at the Army’s Kaibil base.


  • More than 500 personnel from U.S. Army South, U.S. Southern Command and other military units and government agencies deployed to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as part of an exercise called “Integrated Advance” from Februrary 7–17. The exercise focused on mass migration in the Caribbean and Army South and SOUTHCOM abilities to support the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State in a humanitarian crisis scenario.

El Salvador

  • “Joint Task Force Jaguar,” the U.S. Army South Component that will soon hold a “Beyond the Horizon” humanitarian exercise in El Salvador, tested itself in March by conducting a “mass casualty exercise” in Sonsonate. It is designed to simulate the stress caused during a real crisis.


  • Members of the U.S. and Honduran militaries, along with Panama’s border service and civilians, carried out a Medical Readiness Training Exercise supported by Southern Command’s Honduras-based Joint Task Force-Bravo component between Feb. 28 and March 1. The exercise sought to test their ability to conduct expeditionary medical operations. Personnel provided medical care to around 1,200 patients in two villages in the Darién region of Panama.


  • Operation “Ñepohãno 21” took place in Paraguay from February 16-17 as part of a joint civic-humanitarian action in Cruce Liberación, San Pedro. U.S. military personnel, together with about 220 Paraguayan military and police, offered free medical care including general practice, minor surgery, pediatrics, gynecology, and ophthalmology.

Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.

Friday, February 15, 2013

U.S. military exercises in December and January

U.S. military personnel carry out a very regular schedule of exercises and training deployments throughout Latin America. Here, based on official releases and press reports, is a glimpse of these activities in December and January, in alphabetical order by country.


The Southern Command’s Honduras-based “Joint Task Force-Bravo” component and the Belize Ministry of Health carried out a joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) on January 15, 2013, at the Copper Bank Primary School in Copper Bank, Belize.


On a January visit to Rio de Janeiro, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert met with the commander of the Brazilian Navy and toured multiple Brazilian naval facilities, including the Aramar Nuclear Facility. Greenert stated that the “U.S. Navy will assist Brazil with lessons learned from the development of the U.S. nuclear submarine program to help foster Brazil’s subsurface capabilities.” The Brazilian navy and Marine Corps carried out a live amphibious assault exercise and performed a simulated pilot rescue mission in honor of Greenert’s visit.


In December the USNS PATHFINDER, part of the U.S. Southern Command Oceanographic Southern Partnership Station, assisted the Chilean Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service to re-survey the seafloor in and around the Bay of Concepción and Golfo de Arauco. In addition to the survey, reads a U.S. embassy release, “Chilean Navy and U.S. Navy hydrographers and oceanographers will also use this time to share their expertise and learn from one another.”

El Salvador

Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, commander of Southcom’s U.S. Army South component, met in December with “key” leaders of the Salvadoran army and traveled to remote areas where “Beyond the Horizon 2013,” a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals, will take place.


In January “The Message Program,” a U.S.-based non-profit, worked with the Military Group at the American Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Army’s 6th Brigade to supply and equip two clinics and one school in Alta Verapaz department. The clinics and schools are part of the Southern Command’s “Beyond the Horizon” series of construction and humanitarian aid exercises.

Servicemen from Joint Task Force-Bravo completed a four-day Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in Chiquimula, Guatemala from December 11-15, 2012.


Members of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Unit 4, including 10 members of SEAL Team 18, recently completed six months in Honduras. There, they train a newly created naval Special Forces unit, Fuerzas Especiales Naval (FEN). In total, 45 Honduran personnel completed training over the course of two eight-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL style training courses.


In December, U.S. Northern Command completed the first phase of training for more than 400 Mexican firefighters in seven cities as part of its Humanitarian Assistance Program. Phase One focused on fire chiefs, Phase Two will focus on lieutenants and captains, and Phase Three will focus on frontline firefighters. Training was conducted by Chemonics, a U.S. company contracted by Northcom.

As U.S. Northern Command pursues closer engagement with Mexico, Army Major General Francis G. Mahon, Northcom’s director for strategy, plans and policy, said in January that he hopes to begin bilateral exercises with Mexico. U.S. and Mexican military officials will begin to plan their first bilateral air defense exercise this month. which is expected to take place later this year.

Last year, Mexican military leaders participated in several “tabletop” simulation exercises, and sent observers to Northcom’s “Ardent Sentry” exercise last spring.

“It’s all about getting comfortable with each other and hopefully, advancing in the relationship,” Gen. Mahon said. “It would be wonderful, someday, to take a Mexican company [about 200 soldiers] to the National Training Center to train with an American battalion or brigade.”

This would be a big break with tradition in Mexico, explains the Defense Department news release that cites Gen. Mahon.

Mexico’s constitution explicitly prohibits foreign forces from operating on Mexican soil. But as SEDENA and SEMAR, Mexico’s army and navy, respectively, shed their internal focus, they are becoming increasingly open to combined training and subject matter expert exchanges, Mahon said.

Research for, and some drafting of, this post was carried out by WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tradewinds 2012: A week of military exercises

Between June 14th and 24th, U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), led by U.S. Marine Forces South, sponsored ten days of military exercises in Barbados aimed at "improving cooperation and security" in the Caribbean basin. This was the 28th annual Tradewinds exercise and featured U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officers working with 16 other nations from the region. These nations are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados (host nation), Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.

This is a smaller group of countries than last year's exercise, which included 21 nations. This year, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama did not participate

The objective [PDF] of the exercise, according to Southcom, is to "enhance the collective abilities of the Partner Nations' Defense Forces and constabularies to Counter Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) and conduct Humanitarian Aid/ Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations." This translates into the following exercises:

  • Conduct joint, combined and interagency training,
  • Focus on increasing regional cooperation in countering transnational organized crime,
  • Support humanitarian assistance/disaster responses,
  • Conduct interoperability training for multinational staffs,
  • Build capability to plan and execute complex multinational security operations.

Skills Demonstrated:
The above skills were tested later on in the exercise through a five-day command post exercise in which,

Barbados was just hit by a simulated tsunami in the midst of dealing with a virtual terrorist hostage situation, a collapsed stadium and a bombing that damaged an oil tanker causing an oil leak into the bay, all while preparing for the impending threat of a hurricane.

Alongside the exercise, a meeting was held between upwards of 40 diplomats, ministers of national security, chiefs of defense, ministers of defense, agency directors and senior military officials from the region to discuss the areas the combatants were being trained in through the Distinguished Visitor Program. Larry Palmer, U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said, "There is a tremendous value to the region for all of these representatives to get this kind of experience - they get to create the kinds of relationships they will need in order to do their jobs when called upon."

U.S. Southern Command has also been in Peru in recent weeks as part of the ongoing New Horizons 2012 exercise which, paired with the Beyond the Horizon exercises, is taking place between April and October 2012. Both of the exercises are taking place in Peru, Guatemala, and Honduras and are being executed by U.S. Army South and U.S. Air Forces Southern.

This blog was written by CIP Intern Anna Moses.

Friday, August 20, 2010


This Monday marked the beginning of the annual Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2010 training exercise. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command and the Panamanian government, the 12-day exercise brings together land, air and sea forces from 18 nations in a joint, combined operation focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.

This year, the exercise will run from August 16-27 and will carry out live and simulated training scenarios in the vicinity of the Panama Canal, Colombia and various U.S. locations (Norfolk, Virginia and Miami and Mayport, Florida). According to the U.S. Department of Defense, PANAMAX is "one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world," involving more than 30 vessels, a dozen aircraft, and 4,500 personnel.

The first PANAMAX was held in 2003 and included only Chile, Panama and the United States. Over the past seven years, the exercise has expanded to include 20 nations at its peak last year. This year, 18 nations are participating, including Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay. Costa Rica, the Netherlands and France participated in PANAMAX 2009, but did not return this year, and Honduras is participating again after withdrawing last year due to controversy surrounding the military's involvement with the coup d'etat, which ousted President Manuel Zelaya in August 2009.

Here are some more details about this year's Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX exercise:

The purpose of PANAMAX 2010 is "to enhance regional cooperation and exercise participating nations' ground, naval, air and special operators' ability to respond to threats to the Panama Canal and plan for a major humanitarian assistance and disaster relief event in the region."

This year's exercise simulates the following scenario: A terrorist organization attacks the Panama Canal. In response to a request from Panama, the United Nations Security Council instructs the United States to lead a multinational force to protect the Canal and ensure shipping traffic and free maritime access.

According to Panamanian coordinator for PANAMAX 2010 Jesus Rodriguez, the increase in drug cartel activity in the region and along the Panamanian coastline is "closely connected to terrorism and the weapons trade. Drugs have become synonymous of terrorism."

Skills practiced:
Southcom's factsheet on PANAMAX 2010 explains that the training involved will address the spectrum of maritime operations, including: visit, board, search and seizure; entry control point training; riverine patrols; and open water diving operations.

The factsheet also points out that PANAMAX provides training to "ensure civil, naval, air, and ground security forces can operate as an effective team, coordinating assets and sharing information to respond quickly to crises and protect the security of the region."