Military leaders from nearly two-dozen South and Central American nations are at Ft. Sam Houston this week for a joint military training exercise that comes as the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey inches closer, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
"We're spending a lot of our time preparing for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations with our partners and it serves as one of the ties that binds us," Major General Mark Stammer says.
The Panamex exercise, which started in 2003, has grown to include 20 nations and 2,500 people involved. And while it started as a way to build relationships in case of an attack on a place like the Panama Canal, Gen. Stammer, the Commanding General of U.S. Army South says Hurricane Harvey showed just how dangerous Mother Nature can be.
"Last year's hurricane season and the devastating effects of it required us to refine (the exercise) and bring more partners in," he says.
Hurricane Harvey tied the record for causing the most damage when the slammed into the Texas coastline in August 2017. The storm caused a combined $125 billion in damage, mostly from flooding in the Houston area.
Rear Admiral Luis Polar of the Peruvian Navy says, with their history of battling earthquakes, the South American nations are in a strategic spot to help Central America or the Caribbean in case of another huge storm.
"I don’t think any country by itself can help their own people, so they can get support and assistance from other countries and, if it's in the region, it's easier because we're closer."
The leaders of Panamex say the main goal of the exercise is to build personal relationships, so if there is need to help rebuild after another Hurricane Harvey, they know who to reach out to and how to get the job done.