United States, Panama to Conduct Joint Military Exercise
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States and Panama will conduct a joint military exercise next month to test their ability to defend the Panama Canal against a ″guerrilla insurgency.″
The exercise, dubbed Kindle Liberty 85, will be staged from Feb. 4 to 13 and will involve 4,000 U.S. soldiers and a small contingent of Panamanian troops, the Pentagon said Friday.
Most of the American troops participating in the exercise will be deployed from the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, although they will be reinforced with units air-lifted to Panama from the United States, the Pentagon added.
″Unlike previous exercises in the series, Kindle Liberty 85 will be conducted outside the immediate Panama Canal area as a means of adding realism to the guerrilla insurgency scenario ...,″ a Defense Department notice stated.
″The field training exercise portion will take place on the Azuero Peninsula of Panama. There will be ground, air and sea activity by the U.S. and Panamanian forces in the defense exercise, which culminates in a tactical employment phase in the vicinity of Arenas in Veraguas province.″
The Defense Department’s notice stressed the exercise had been jointly planned with Panama and was ″consistent with provisions of the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty.″
That treaty, which returned control of the canal to Panama, assigns the United States primary responsibility for defending the important waterway through the end of the century.
According to a Pentagon spokesman, the last joint defense exercise in Panama occurred in August and September, although a road engineering exercise is currently in progress.
The spokesman, Lt. Col. Dante Camia, said elements of four different Army units based in the United States would be air-lifted to Panama to augment those already assigned there. Among them will be troops from the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 53rd Infantry Brigade, a Florida National Guard unit based in Tampa.
The Air Force’s 347th Tactical Fighter Wing from Moody Air Force Base outside Valdosta, Ga., will also participate, he said.
The Military Airlift Command will begin transporting the Army units in late January, then return them to the United States after the exercise by the end of February, the Pentagon said.