COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - U.S. Sailors from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) completed their contributions to the humanitarian assistance mission in Sri Lanka, June 17.
More than 400 Sailors participated in the mission in Sri Lanka, where recent heavy rainfalls brought by a southwest monsoon triggered flooding and landslides throughout the country, displacing thousands of people and causing significant damage to homes and buildings.
"Our mission here was straight-forward, to provide support and relief efforts to our friends in Sri Lanka who were impacted by this disaster," said Capt. Alexis T. Walker, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "Working alongside Sailors and Marines from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, our team conducted irrigation repairs, well rehabilitation and levee repairs throughout the region. I'm proud of our efforts this week and the assistance we were able to provide."
Sailors from Lake Erie spent a week working alongside local government agencies and the Sri Lanka Red Cross to assist local communities with community cleanup, food distribution, and dewatering of wells in support of humanitarian relief efforts in the island nation. Major projects included a three-day irrigation repair in Matara Province and a groundwater well rehabilitation in Kalutara. A total of 125 wells were repaired in Colombo and Galle, ensuring pure water was available to local citizens.
"It was a very rewarding experience for the entire Lake Erie crew," said Capt. Darren McPherson, commanding officer, Lake Erie. "To be able to help the people of Sri Lanka, to make a difference in their lives, is something they will not soon forget. Moreover, we established a fantastic working relationship between our militaries. The newly established Sri Lankan Marine Corps worked side-by-side with us each day, and the Sri Lankan Navy liaison elements coordinated our efforts with local officials. And it was the local officials, like those in the Sri Lankan Red Cross who assisted us in getting the help to the people in need the most."
Electronics Technician third class Andrew Newbegin talked about the significance of being a part of the efforts in Sri Lanka.
"It was really amazing getting to participate in a humanitarian assistance mission on my first deployment, he said. "We were working all around the local community, in people's yards, interacting with them and creating bonds that will last forever. We got to see first hand the difference our work was making. The crew will never forget this mission."
The U.S. military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to provide relief to those affected by disaster. In March 2017, U.S. Navy doctors and civil engineers aboard USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) visited Hambantota, Sri Lanka for Pacific Partnership, a two week humanitarian and disaster relief preparedness mission, establishing key relationships with the Sri Lankan Navy and civil service agencies in the country.
A small group of military specialists will remain in Sri Lanka to assist the U.S. Embassy and relevant government agencies with the final phases of relief operations.
On behalf of Commander, Task Force 73, Destroyer Squadron 7 conducts advanced planning, organizes resources, and leads the execution of maritime engagements such as the CARAT exercise series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multilateral SEACAT exercise with Bangladesh, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.