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Multinational Navies Pack a Punch at FA PANAMAX 2007

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070901-07
Release Date: 9/1/2007 8:35:00 AM


By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Barrie Barber, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Navy Reserve Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Panama (NNS) -- A flotilla of U.S. Navy and multinational warships have teamed up and set sail Aug. 31 to promote interoperability on the high seas during Fuerzas Alidas (FA) PANAMAX 2007 off the coasts of Panama and Honduras.

Civil and military forces from 19 nations are working in tandem with the cooperation of the government of Panama to ensure the continued security of the Panama Canal and regional peace and prosperity.

“It’s going to be a very interesting exercise,” said Cmdr. Victor Cooper, commanding officer of USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), which has joined the PANAMAX armada. “The training will increase multinational force interoperability while supporting the training requirements of all participating nations.”

France, for the first time, has sailed into the maritime force at PANAMAX.

“We used to be based in the Caribbean,” said Lt. Catherine Bellis, a French Navy spokeswoman for the frigate FS Ventose (F 733). “We need to keep this canal free and neutral.”

The Peruvian Navy has dispatched the fast frigate BAP Bolognesi (FM 57) and the missile corvette BAP Sanchez Carrion (CM 26); and have engaged in Sailor cross-deck exchanges with foreign counterparts.

“It’s the best opportunity to understand the philosophy and life aboard other ships,” said Capt. Silvio Alva, commanding officer of Bolognesi. “This is an excellent opportunity to learn the others’ system.”

Colombian Navy Capt. Hernan M. Ospina, a PANAMAX military liaison, said his nation participated in the exercise because of the strategic importance of the canal and the South American country’s long-time close ties to the United States.

The Colombian ships ARC Antioquia (FM 53), a frigate, and ARC Buenaventura (BM 162), a supply ship, sailed into PANAMAX.

“Colombia is convinced [that] to deal with those threats requires a cooperative approach,” Ospina said.

The Royal Netherlands Navy dispatched the HNLMS Van Nes (F 833) thousands of miles away from its homeport on another continent because of the importance of the Panama Canal to Holland’s and the world’s commerce, said Cmdr. Walter Sillevis Smitt, the warship’s commanding officer.

“Historically, we are a seafaring nation,” he said. “We heavily depend on trade all over the world.”

Holland also has security interests in the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean, including Curacao, which is part of the Dutch federation, he said.

“We always have a naval vessel deployed in this region,” Smitt said.

Chile is the fourth major user of the canal, said Capt. Gaston Massa, a Chilean Navy exercise liaison.

“Almost all of our exports go by sea,” he said.

Chile is one of the three original participants in PANAMAX since the first exercise in 2003. This year, the Chilean Navy has sent the frigate CNS Almirante Blanco Encalada (FF 15) and a P-3 ocean surveillance aircraft.

Canada has sent the warship HMCS Regina (FFH 334) and soldiers to Honduras to participate in security and humanitarian assistance scenarios under a simulated United Nations mandate.

The land exercise mimics real world issues Canadian soldiers face in Afghanistan, said Maj. Peter Burrell, part of the PANAMAX control exercise group.

“We are big believers in the three D's: defense, development and diplomacy,” he said.

“You can’t improve the lives of [a local population] unless they themselves can develop,” Burrell added. “It all stems to be able to walk down the streets and work your farmer’s field without having mines.”

FA PANAMAX 2007 is a U.S. Southern Command joint and multinational annual exercise. The nations have deployed 30 ships, 12 aircraft and more than 7,000 personnel between Aug. 29-Sept. 7.

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