Twelve judge advocates from three nations assembled in August for PANAMAX 2014, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise designed to test the ability of a multinational force to defend the Panama Canal and operate under a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
For the exercise, 320 military personnel from 17 partner nations in Central and South America gathered at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., to develop relationships and to improve capabilities for planning and executing complex, multinational operations. Supporting the Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) were Cmdr. James Hoffman and Lt. Elan Ghazal of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet. They were joined by partner nation judge advocates Capitán de Fragata Luz Marina Urrea of Colombia, Capitán de Corbeta Marcela Vergara of Chile and American judge advocates: Lt. Kevin Larson, Lt. Chris Reintjes, and Lt. Robert Bombard of Defense Service Office Southeast; Lt. Brian Corcoran of Destroyer Squadron Fourteen; and Lt. j.g. Cynthia Parmley, Lt. j.g. Matthew Bagioli, Lt. j.g. Becky Cohen and Lt. j.g. John Doyle of Region Legal Service Office Southeast. Judge advocates were called upon during the exercise to interpret rules of engagement, monitor the battle watch, and provide advice to commanders and operational planners.
Many discussions centered on customary international law and actions authorized by the United Nations Security Council Resolution. The multinational aspect of the exercise allowed for education and discussion on the role of an operational legal advisor in various countries. PANAMAX 2014 provided valuable opportunities for the group of mostly first-tour judge advocates to work hand in hand with the fleet and engage with partner nation judge advocates.