Central, South America partners gather for PANAMAX 2014 in Mayport

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Story Number: NNS140807-24Release Date: 8/7/2014 8:20:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre N. McIntyre, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla (NNS) -- More than 320 military personnel, including 80 members of partner-nation navies, assembled Aug. 4 on Naval Station Mayport for PANAMAX 2014, an exercise aimed at developing strong working relationships between multinational forces to ensure the defense of the Panama Canal.

The exercise, which is scheduled to run Aug. 8-15, includes participants from 15 nations: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the United States.

"This exercise allows countries to create friendships and come together as a multinational force while combating common threats," said Colombian Rear Adm. Benjamin Calle, the Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander for the exercise. "This training will ensure that regional security and stability work for the prosperity of our nations."

Under the exercise scenario, a multinational force has formed to execute a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for defense of the canal. The force includes air, land and special-forces components, in addition to the maritime component, which will plan and conduct simulated operations in and around the canal and its surrounding waters in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

"The highlight of this exercise is to develop interoperability between our units and have the opportunity to face very close to our reality regional threats," said Calle. "By working together, we prevent actions that threaten maritime security and are intended to prevent the free navigation and destabilize the region."

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Matheson, the deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, is serving as Calle's deputy commander during the exercise.

"One of the most valuable components of this exercise is that we come together from different nations, with many different perspectives," said Matheson. "That is the power of a coalition force and it is normal to occasionally have spirited discussions in order to work through complex problems. But at the end of this exercise, the relationships that have been established and the mutual understanding attained will serve us extremely well in the event we have to put together a coalition force for a real-world event."

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, the exercise host, supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.

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