DORAL, Fla.– Marines are a force in readiness allowing them to respond to crises across the globe. This is made possible through constant training and positive relations with partner nations.
The annual exercise, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, trains U.S. and partner nations to protect traffic through one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world, the Panama Canal.
“This exercise looks at how countries in the region would respond to a crisis in which the operations of the canal are jeopardized,” said Australian Army Maj. Ben Watson, operations officer, Command Element, 15th MEU. Watson filled the role as amphibious planner and advisor to the Maritime Naval Component Commander during exercise PANAMAX 13.
During the exercise, participants from 19 nations worked together through scenarios that affected security. The exercises tested commanders’ direction of forces across a wide variety of air, land, sea, space and cyber missions.
“The 15th MEU is one of America’s 911 forces and may be required to respond to any crisis in the world,” Watson, a 31 year-old native of Sydney, Australia, said. “Working with the people and equipment from countries such as Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Panama and Dominican Republic is vital in setting the conditions for success in future operations.”
For the first time since PANAMAX began in 2003, Brazil took the lead for ground and special forces components and Colombia led the maritime component of the exercise.
“These countries’ leading these organizations goes to show the trust we have in the ability of coalition partners,” Watson added.
The 15th MEU’s participation in the exercise allowed foreign militaries the opportunity to see how a MEU operates and cast insight on a Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s approach to the battlefield.
“Foreign countries are often amazed at the breadth of capabilities and mission sets the MAGTF can achieve as a self-sufficient, expeditionary, combined-arms team,” Watson said.
“One of the positive outcomes of the multinational exercise is the exchange of expertise and the new knowledge participants gain about each other’s culture and militaries,” Lt. Col. William D. Wischmeyer, executive officer, 15th MEU, said. “These interactions strengthen the Corps’ bonds across the region and foster long-lasting friendships and an understanding among the partner nations, ultimately benefiting the security of the region.”