News: Colombian army commander visits US Army South
Story by Sgt. Tamika Exom
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – A Colombian army general visited U.S. Army South in preparation for the upcoming PANAMAX 2011 training exercise, scheduled to take place here Aug. 15-16, when his forces will lead the land component portion for the first time.
Brig. Gen. Gabriel H. Pinilla Franco, commander of the Decisive Action Joint Force Colombian Army, visited Army South July 24-26 to access ongoing preparations for the exercise with U.S. Army officers and to meet with Colombian military forces who are already here receiving training for PANAMAX.
Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2011, which means allied forces, is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series under the command of U.S. Army South that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal. Forces from multiple nations will take part in live and simulated training scenarios off the coast of Panama and other locations in the U.S.
“Our military has a lot of experience,” said Pinilla. “We are conducting joint ops frequently in our country. We are also conducting task force operations frequently, so for us, this is not an unknown environment.”
U.S. Army South is currently hosting 40 students from the Colombian army. These students play an important role by augmenting the forces, both during training exercises and in real world situations.
“We have the benefit of training with the opportunity to share experiences, to show our skills, but at the same time, the opportunity to learn from other armies [and] colleagues, to make this effort together,” said Pinilla.
The main focus of PANAMAX 2011 is to exercise a variety of responses to any request from the governments of Panama and Colombia to protect and guarantee safe passage of traffic through the Panama Canal, ensure its neutrality, and respect national sovereignty.
The exercise is designed to execute stability operations under the support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, provide interoperability training for the participating multinational staffs, and build participating nation capability to plan and execute complex multinational operations.
“We are very proud to be here participating in this exercise; sharing our world experience at the same time learning from other countries and agencies allows us to pull together, in order to achieve the best effort possible to obtain the main goal for this exercise.” said Pinilla.
The opening ceremony for PANAMAX will be held here Tuesday, Aug 16.