Canadian Armed Forces join multi-national Exercise PANAMAX 2015

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Article / September 21, 2015 / Project number: 15-0146

San Antonio, Texas — Energetic discussion from working groups, briefings, and translator-assisted conversations in multiple languages characterized the daily activity at the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) at PANAMAX 2015 (PMX 15).

Eight Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel drawn from Canadian Army Headquarters, 5th Canadian Division and 4 Health Services Group participated alongside 65 members of 16 partner nations as the primary training audience.

The multi-national Command Post Exercise (CPX) occurred at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas from July 26 to August 5, 2015. The CFLCC computer-assisted boardroom exercise was an important part of a much larger set of live and simulated exercises making up PMX 15. PMX is one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world and this year took place at Mayport, Jacksonville, Florida, where more than 600 military personnel gathered to participate, as well as locations in Texas, Mississippi and the Caribbean Sea.

The CFLCC challenged the army officers representing each nation to find ways to work together in a highly complex and multi-cultural environment in order to produce the Land Component plan for defense of the Panama Canal from a fictitious threat.

The Canadian contingent focused on exchanging expertise in Crisis Action Planning with the group. Spread throughout several rooms at the Military Training Center at Fort Sam Houston, the exercise focused on interoperability and staff planning functions, including operations, intelligence, logistics, engineering, public affairs, indirect fire and health services support.

A United States-led Joint International venture which began in 2003, PMX is focused on operations in Central and South America.  PMX initially started with three partner nations but now incorporates as many as 21 nations at a time.  Until 2010, PMX was conducted mostly in simulation as a CPX but has evolved into a large operational force from the navies, air forces and armies of participating countries.

For PMX 2015’s CFLCC simulation, exercise participants came from the US, Canada, France, and many representatives from Central and South America. Group leaders were assigned from different partner nations, exposing exercise participants to a variety of military leadership styles. 

This exercise represents a valuable collective training opportunity for our soldiers in an international setting. It is an excellent way to practice Crisis Action Planning at the operational level,” said Lieutenant-Colonel John Woodgate, the Canadian Contingent Commander and 5th Canadian Division officer in charge of personnel. “I am very pleased that our soldiers had this opportunity to not only share their knowledge and expertise, but to learn from other participants.

The detailed overarching scenario that involved land-based, maritime and cyber threats provided excellent realism as it allowed CFLCC planners to “train as they fight” and initiate communications via e-mail and video teleconference with maritime, air and special operations planners in Miami, Florida. This solidified the importance of ensuring international and multi-language operational level coordination of personnel and resources to the Land Component staff.

The challenge on exercises such as PMX is compounded with staff originating from 16 countries, speaking four languages and possessing a wide variety of previous experience and training that must be brought together to achieve success. Such is the training value as planners are compelled to adjust their usual approach and take extra time to learn about their counterparts’ experiences, strengths and methods. 

Language barriers represented a significant potential challenge, as exercise participants native tongues included English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Translator support, patience and personal adjustments to methods of communication, such as avoiding the use of military acronyms, resulted in significant progress. Soon, the military ethos shared among participating nations, along with common mission focus, enabled the group to find solutions and produce the effects desired by the Command Team.

Participating in this exercise demonstrates Canada’s commitment to the Americas, working with international allies to ensure stability and security in this key trading area.

PANAMAX 15 proved to be a valuable experience for participants and advisors alike, as it fostered cooperation among nations that do not often have the opportunity to train together,” added LCol Woodgate. “Group problem solving and a common mission focus resulted in significantly enhanced interoperability and lessons learned both at the individual level, and between participating nations.

By: Captain Brian Amos, 4 Health Services Group with Army Public Affairs

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