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Reservists Play Key Role To Keep FA PANAMAX 2007 Steaming Full Speed Ahead

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070906-25
Release Date: 9/6/2007 6:27:00 PM

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

PANAMA CITY, Panama (NNS) -- Fuerzas Aliadas (FA) PANAMAX 2007 could not happen without U.S. Navy and other military reservists’ contributions to the largest naval exercise in the Western Hemisphere this year.

The citizen Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen are involved in everything from explosive ordinance disposal to planning scenarios to boarding vessels during the Aug. 29-Sept. 7 exercise to ensure the continued security of the Panama Canal and peace and prosperity in the region.

“We could not do this exercise without the outstanding addition of the reserve and Guard component,” said Adm. James G. Stavridis, Commander, U.S. Southern Command.

Stravridis witnessed first-hand the integration of reservists with active duty, civil service and multinational personnel during a Sept. 5 visit to a logistics group at PANAMAX.

“It was a perfect microcosm for this exercise,” he said.

The U.S. military has called more than 600,000 reservists to active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James A. Kelley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said in an exercise visit.

“They’re unbelievably important to us being able to sustain the global war on terror,” he said. “We’re trying to see how we can get reservists into more joint exercises and joint training.”

At PANAMAX, citizen Sailors have taken key roles in a major joint and multinational exercise with 19 nations from North, Central and South America and Europe.

Aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the Caribbean Sea, Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Juan Nazario operated the Global Command and Control System to track vessels. He also served as a Spanish-English translator for multinational personnel aboard the warship.

“It plays a big role in this exercise,” said Nazario, assigned to Commander, Naval Southern Command, Det. 4 at Fort Buchanan, P.R.

In an example of reserve support ashore, about 50 citizen Sailors made up about half of uniformed personnel in a “white cell” in the exercise control group, said Cmdr. Eric Jabs, an active-duty U.S. Navy operational support officer to the reserve force. They served as lawyers to liaison officers, among other roles.

“It’s just a hand-and-glove relationship,” he said.

Reservists in uniform often bring civilian expertise to accomplish the mission, he said. “It comes second nature,” Jabs said.

Capt. George McCarty, a reservist with the Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping at PANAMAX, owns a merchant shipping company in the civilian world.

He acts as a liaison between commercial shippers and the Navy. That helped him and his fellow Sailors contact more than 40 merchant vessels that agreed to boardings on the high seas during PANAMAX training, said McCarty, a member of Military Sealift Command Expeditionary Port Unit 110 at Navy Operational Support Center-Houston.

“PANAMAX is the only U.S. Navy and combined exercise that actually uses real merchant ships,” added Capt. Kerry Powell, a member of U.S. Fleet Forces Command Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping Det. Bravo in Miami, Fla.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Debbie Gramlick used her civilian experience working with other agencies as a Department of Homeland Security employee to interact with a multitude of nations and simulated agencies at PANAMAX.

“I can hit the ground running knowing who I need to go to,” said Gramlick, exercise strategic communications lead. She is assigned to the 953rd Reserve Support Squadron at Joint Forces Command in Norfolk.

Gramlick also faced the challenge of communicating a unified message among participating nations. “They need to be in on that message because we’re not speaking for the U.S., we’re speaking for (the cooperating countries),” she said.

Lt. Richard Schafer and 30 reservists with Explosive Ordinance Disposal Operation Support Unit 10 in Fort Story, Va., trained and dove with divers from Brazil, Panama and Peru to teach their counterparts underwater security measures, among other tasks.

“It’s real world training you can’t simulate,” he said.

Lt. Cmdr. Donald Kelling, a reservist assigned to Maritime Civil Affairs Squadron 2, at NAB Little Creek, Va., simulates coordination with private agencies to aid the local population in the PANAMAX storyline.

“It’s very important to have a good network of the people you’re going to work with,” he said. “Exercises like this, you can’t pull them off without the reserves.”

FA PANAMAX 2007 is a U.S. Southern Command joint and multinational annual exercise in cooperation with the government of Panama with 30 ships, a dozen aircraft and more than 7,000 personnel. The exercise started with three nations, Chile, Panama and the United States, in 2003.

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