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American Forces Press Service

Southern Command Kicks Off Panama Canal Defense Exercise

From a U.S. Southern Command News Release

MIAMI, Aug. 8, 2014 – Panamax 2014, an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored multinational exercise focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, kicks off today at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Southcom and Marine Corps Forces South personnel based here, as well as personnel at Navy Forces South in Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, and Air Forces Southern at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, are among the U.S. participants taking part in the exercise.

Sixteen additional nations will join the United States during the seven-day exercise and will use simulations to command and control multinational sea, air, cyber and land forces defending the vital waterway and surrounding areas against threats from violent extremism, natural disasters and pandemic outbreaks, officials said.

Participating nations this year include Brazil, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the United States.

Panamax has evolved over the years, officials said, and now includes training for many of the 21st-century threats encountered in today's land, sea, air and cyber environments. The exercise aims to increase the ability of nations to work together, enable assembled forces to organize as a multination task force and test their responsiveness in combined operations, they added.

This year's mostly simulated exercise will include the use of a B-52 bomber to support maritime detection and monitoring, the first time in three years a live military asset is employed during exercise scenarios.

The Panama Canal is considered one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world. Six percent of the world's trade travels through the canal every year, accounting for roughly 400 million tons of goods. It is crucial to the free flow of trade worldwide, officials noted, and the region's economic stability is largely dependent on the safe transport of several million tons of cargo through the canal each year.

U.S. Southern Command is one of the nation's six geographically focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

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