UIWTV News Director Marithza Calderon, a meteorology major, interviews a participant in the Panamax international military training exercise.

Nine Incarnate Word communication arts students from UIWTV, KUIW Internet radio and the Logos student newspaper participated in a news conference about the Panamax ’09 military training exercise at Camp Bullis on Sept. 18.

Panamax is a multinational joint force exercise intended to defend the Panama Canal. For the afternoon, the students worked as photographers, writers and television news reporters, conducting interviews and gathering information.

“In the beginning, dealing with the press was a complicated and difficult task for the military,” said Col. Mike Feil, deputy commander of operations for U.S. Army South, who spoke about the danger of a potential terrorist attack on the canal.

After a brief question-and-answer session, students took a tour of the Deployable Joint Command and Control Center, where they talked to military personnel about their duties.

Operation Panamax began in 2003 with only three participating countries: Panama, Chile and the United States. In 2004, six more nations signed on, and by 2005, 15 nations were involved. Today, 20 countries take part in the exercise.

Students learned the military’s goal is to keep the canal open in the event of a disaster because the canal is critical to the free flow of goods for the region and the world. As part of the exercise, personnel work on command, control and stability operations focused on responding to any request from the government of Panama.

“The purpose of Panamax is to protect commerce and people’s livelihood,” said Gen. Sergio Mantillo, of the Colombian army. “This exercise is also an opportunity for the United States to strengthen its relationship with South America.”