Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Panama Canal Defense Exercise Begins

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2011 – One of the world’s largest multinational military exercises gets under way today to test plans to defend the Panama Canal.

Some 3,500 military and civilian personnel from 17 countries are participating in the 12-day exercise dubbed PANAMAX 2011, U.S. Southern Command officials said.

Co-sponsored by Southcom and the Panamanian government, PANAMAX is a joint, combined operation focused on defending one of the world’s most strategic and economically crucial waterways for global trade, officials said.

This year’s exercise focuses on building the interoperability and capacity that would be necessary to defend the canal in the event of a threat, Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz said.

“We hope the Panama Canal will never have to be defended from a serious threat,” Ruiz said, “but capacity is a very important part of being able to respond to emerging threats.” While the participating countries have an interest in the canal, two-thirds of the canal’s shipping traffic is from the United States, Ruiz noted.

The exercise will develop and test the command and control of forces at sea, involving participants in maritime, air, land, space and cyber operations, he said. Scenarios include open water diving operations, counterdrug interdictions and simulated river operations.

PANAMAX will take place off the coasts of Panama, Texas, Florida and Mississippi through Aug. 26.

The PANAMAX exercise series began in 2003 with the United States, Panama and Chile participating, Ruiz said. Interest in the exercise and in protecting the canal has grown over the years, he added, and participation has expanded to as many as 20 partner countries, he added.

“We worked with our partner nations for many years with the approach that regional security challenges require regional solutions and approaches,” he said.

NMCB 7 Completes Field Training Exercise, Deployment Certification

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Yan Kennon, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- The Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 completed Operation Bearing Duel, the battalion's field training exercise and final evaluation period (FTX/FEP) at Joint Training Facility Camp Shelby, Miss., Aug. 9.

The FTX/FEP evaluated the battalion's abilities in every NMCB mission area and certified NMCB 7 as the Atlantic Fleet Seabees' Independent Unit Ready for Tasking.

The successful FTX/FEP culminates of the battalion's homeport training and signifies it is ready for its scheduled early 2012 deployment to U.S. Central Command's area of operations (AOR) , as well as confirms that the battalion can be deployed anywhere in the world and is capable of executing any assigned construction mission.

"Despite extreme heat, thunderstorms and rain, the battalion did an amazing job to succeed," said NMCB 7 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Gordie Meyer. "The training was hard and physically demanding. It tested the battalion and showed our strength to complete a successful deployment in any environment, at any location. With the completion of FTX, our focus for the remainder of the homeport will continue to be military training, construction project completion, construction skill attainment and overall deployment preparation."

FTX/FEP is an around the clock exercise which tests a battalion's capability to perform scheduled tasking in the midst of extreme adversity. Construction operations are accomplished under constant hostile activity as aggressors and role players attempt to penetrate camp defenses and disrupt any momentum the battalion may have built. Seabees, in this environment, see very long days as watchstanders, construction workers and defensive security elements. For Seabees, the primary mission is contingency construction, but they must also be ready to defend their camp and accompanying assets at all times.

During the FTX, the battalion maintained a mainbody site while simultaneously deploying and maintaining their Air Detachment, Bridge Detachment and Sierra Detachment.

The battalion's Air Detachment conducted a successful field 48-hour mount out, redeployment to a predetermined location, conducted and maintained 24-hour defensive security and performed construction tasking under constant hostile aggressor attacks.

"The men and women of Air Detachment were faced with numerous obstacles and moving parts," said Air Detachment Leading Chief Petty Officer Chief Builder Joe Williams. "Through perseverance, dedication, and teamwork, Air Detachment met all challenges head-on and succeeded as planned. Despite continued aggressor attacks, the Air Detachment completed construction of a crow's nest, hardened sentry post and a heavy timber bunker, ahead of projected schedule."

The battalion's Bridge Detachment, under similar conditions, erected a Mabey Johnson Bridge.

"Due to the extreme summer temperatures at Camp Shelby, our Seabees performed the bulk of construction during the evening and night hours," said Bridge Detachment Leading Chief Petty Officer Chief Builder Shawn Cody. "Having the ability to perform contingency construction tasking while defending our position exemplifies the Seabee motto, 'We Build, We Fight!'"

The battalion's Sierra Detachment was tasked with the construction of a 30-foot timber tower and a heavy timber bunker, accumulating more than 50 man-days of contingency construction.

"Both construction crews worked with determination through excessive heat, torrential down pours, and long hours to safely and successfully complete their projects," said Sierra Detachment Assistant Officer-in-Charge Lt. Sean Hughes.

The detachment also laid the ground work for the battalion's mainbody move-in from its previous location, performing initial security sweeps, camp layout, and the erection of essential command posts, enabling a seamless transition from Detachment Sierra to mainbody control.

"If the detachment's attitude and skill level is any indication of the battalion's performance to come on our upcoming deployment, then we're going to be in good shape," said Hughes.

The Convoy Security Element (CSE) is an essential component of the battalion during a combat deployment. During FTX/FEP, NMCB 7 CSE conducted more than 60 missions, including convoy escort; Traffic Control Points; Marine Expeditionary Force reconnaissance; simulated humanitarian support; and VIP escorts. Two teams consisting of seven gun trucks and 32 Seabees worked around the clock providing measures of battalion security.

"Though each mission had its challenges, battalion convoy security proved to be the most challenging, due to the enormous amounts of Civil Engineering Support Equipment to transport from one site to another," said CSE Operations Chief Builder Jesse VanAusdoll. "Our training, teamwork, and detailed planning ensured that we were prepared to accomplish each mission."

Operation Bearing Duel took place in various phases, to include Receipt, Staging, Onward-Movement and Integration; Operations; Sustainment; and Retrograde. As NMCB 7 makes its final preparations for deployment, the battalion will continue to fine-tune tactics, responses, and capabilities that will allow the battalion to continue to operate at the tip of the spear during its combat deployment in support of U.S. Central Command tasking and objectives.

NMCB 7 is one of the original 10 Seabee battalions authorized by the Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks in 1942.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta hosts an honor cordon to welcome Denmark’s Minister of Defense Gitte Lillelund Bech to the Pentagon at 9:45 a.m. EDT.  The cordon will be held on the steps of the Pentagon River Entrance.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the Pentagon River Parking Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort to the cordon.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

This Day in Naval History - Aug. 16

From the Navy News Service

1812 - USS Constitution recaptures American merchant brig Adeline.
1954 - Beginning of Operation Passage to Freedom, the transport of refugees from Haiphong to Saigon, Vietnam.

Don't forget the history and sacrifices of American heroes; discover these Vietnam War books where our heroes tell you their story.