SAN ANTONIO — Military forces from more than dozen countries have made Fort Sam Houston home for the week as they train for crisis situations.
U.S. Army South is hosting PANAMAX, a joint-military exercise dating back to 2003, which focuses on responding to a host of security threats and humanitarian disasters.
Maj. Gen. William Thigpen, who serves as the Commanding General of U.S. Army South, is helping facilitate the training.
“The western hemisphere is all of our's neighborhood,” Thigpen said. “Security and stability in the western hemisphere is important to everyone that’s participating in this exercise.”
Among the countries taking part in PANAMAX include Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Multiple tents are established at one of Fort Sam Houston’s outdoor training facilities to simulate the logistics of a real-life operation.
Army Col. Lane Bomar described what he called the “nerve center” of the command center where information is analyzed, and decisions are made as it relates to the mock-scenarios.
“Maybe there’s a tropical storm or an earthquake that we might need to support. It’s a broad range, a broad spectrum but we’re able to come together work together whenever called to achieve the mission that we’re asked to do,” Bomar said.
Bomar added that each nation’s military brings a unique perspective to the overall mission.
Maj. Gen. Rodrigo Ferraz of the Brazilian Army is leading land operations for the exercise. He said the training serves as a way to strengthen multi-national ties while sharing Brazil’s military experience with the coalition.
The Chilean Air Force’s Maj. Evelyn Smith noted her nation brings a wealth knowledge when it comes to responding to humanitarian crisis’ such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
The bi-annual training has grown since its 2003-inception from three participating nations to about 19 countries.
“Every year we’re seeing more opportunities for partner nations to fill senior roles so we’re excited and we’re looking forward to the exercise growing each year, Thigpen said.
PANAMAX trainings are being conducted at military installations in Texas (San Antonio), Virginia, Florida and Arizona through Aug. 12.