Panama is a valued partner to the United States, and its location in Central America is vital to US national security. Its key position along major land and sea transit routes makes it a critical partner for interception of illegal drugs destined for the United States. Increasing pressure from criminal and drug trafficking organizations threatens Panamanian security, democratic principles, and the population.
One region in Panama of high importance for both the US military and Panamanian security forces is the Darién Gap, a large area which straddles the Panama-Colombia border. From April through June, US military personnel will be in Panama to conduct “New Horizons 2018,” a joint foreign military humanitarian and civic assistance exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. During the exercise, US troops will work with a number of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector partners to build US and Panamanian civil-military operations capacity while providing medical care and engineering support to local populations. You can read more about the work that SOUTHCOM is supporting here.
The New Horizons exercise is planned and coordinated closely with multiple agencies and host nation governments to creatively address regional needs (e.g. clinics, schools, and community centers) and support vulnerable populations. A combination of US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines troops will collaborate with the State Department and various NGOs to provide support to Panama’s most vulnerable region by addressing local issues, degrading criminal networks, and increasing peace and stability in the area.
In the lead up to the exercise, US Marines conducted assessments in the Darién Gap. As they engaged with students and teachers in various schools, a lack of simple items was discovered, including backpacks and basic school supplies. This deficiency represents a great impediment to educational efforts and was identified as a critical need which must be fulfilled. With your help, Spirit of America can meet this need and improve rapport with the local population, promote education, and bring stability to vulnerable students at risk of recruitment into illegal organizations.
Active engagement with our neighbors in Central and South America contributes to both regional and US securities. Through sustained interaction with local youths, our US advisors will help deter recruitment, preserve stability, and support allies by addressing common security challenges. Please help our US Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force promote education and bring hope to schools in the Darién Gap.