By MC1 Jacob Sippel
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs
More than 1,000 naval and security forces from 11 nations said farewell to Panama City, Panama, concluding UNITAS 2016, which ran Sept. 18 - 28.
Participants included the United States, Panama, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom in the world's longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise.
The 10-day exercise was hosted by Panama and included operations in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility. Participating units from the United States included expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913), Joint Task Force (JTF)-Bravo with three H-60 Blackhawk helicopters, Destroyer Squadron 40 (DESRON 40) and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.
The closing ceremony for UNITAS was held in Panama City, Panama Sept. 28.
"We have so much in common. We share a common heritage. We cherish and uphold the same principles and we are united by a vision of a better future for all our nations," said Adm. Kurt Tidd, U.S. Southern Command commander.
"To build trust, we can't afford to pass up even a single opportunity to work together cooperatively at sea, ashore, or anywhere we can -- in Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond. Security organizations from all points of the compass must work even harder to build, cultivate and expand our own networks. That we must work even harder to be vigilant and prepared."
This year's exercise was designed to increase interoperability with each navy and public security forces. Through the execution of littoral warfare, anti-piracy, maritime interdiction operations, countering transnational crime, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, communications exercises and air operations, UNITAS enabled the assembled forces to organize and conduct combined naval operations in a multinational task force and test their responsiveness.
UNITAS, which is Latin for "unity," was first executed in 1960. This year marks the 57th iteration of the world's longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise, and it's a demonstration to the value of the relationships forged with our partners in the region.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.