In the middle of Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston is a barricaded group of tents that have been turned into a command center.

Nearly 3,000 miles away from San Antonio, the Panama Canal continues to keep cargo on ships moving from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

On Monday, the men and women inside the tents at Fort Sam Houston are taking part in an exercise focused on ensuring the security of the Panama Canal and the surrounding region.

"[The Panama Canal] provides commerce capability," Major General K.K. Chinn said. "It means a lot not, only to the U.S."

The Panama Canal saves boats 7,872 miles by allowing them to skip a trip around the southern tip of South America. That shortcut saves money for commerce, which is why the "Panamax 2017" exercise includes men and women from 17 other nations.

"It allows us to integrate our knowledge and our experiences to help each other wherever an attack may occur." Chilean Air Force Colonel Alex Voigt said. "We will all be able to help each other."

If an attack or major weather event were to happen at the Panama Canal, this group of military leaders would be the one to respond. It's a scenario they hope will never happen, but one they have to be prepared for.

"It's about relationships," Maj. Gen. Chinn said. "If we fight together, we know each other, train together, and worked together before. Most important, we trust each other. With mutual trust, everything is possible wherever we go."