Australian Defence Force personnel have undertaken humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training with the Sri Lankan Navy in Puttalam, Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Navy Small Boat Squadron has rapid response units that are ready and postured to respond in the country’s waterways and are specially equipped to handle disaster scenarios.
The Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) and the Rapid Response Rescue and Relief Unit (4RU) are elite units with two very different roles to play in the maritime space.
RABS Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander DDK Duminda Dayananda said the squadron was first established in 2006 to combat the threat of waterborne terrorism.
“RABS was established in a wartime environment when terrorism was a real threat,” Lieutenant Commander Dayananda said.
“The Sri Lankan war ended in 2009 and, as a result of the reduced threat environment, 4RU was stood up to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said.
4RU is the Sri Lankan Navy’s disaster response and recovery unit and, as part of INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019, the unit put together several real-world disaster situations at their highly effective simulation site.
The site features a coastal estuary system, which replicates a flooded village where the unit demonstrated rescue operations by boat, land, air and across water gaps.
A village buried beneath a landslide had also been cut into the landscape and the Australian contingent watched as 4RU members conducted search and rescue operations with dogs and special equipment.
“The exchange of experience was great for us and I think the Australian Defence Force members got a lot out of it too,” Lieutenant Commander Dayananda said.
“Disasters are a global issue and as militaries we should work together to save lives.”
HMAS Canberra’s Commander Amphibious Division, Lieutenant Colonel Rory Hale, agreed.
“We witnessed a very capable Sri Lankan Navy simulate a recovery operation from a landslide event resulting from a natural disaster,” Lieutenant Colonel Hale said.
“Activities like this are important for Australia and Sri Lanka. Should a natural disaster occur and the Australian Defence Force is requested to support, then we have already formed those key relationships and have a greater understanding of each other’s capabilities.”
Sri Lanka was the first port of call for INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019. The Joint Task Force is fulfilling the Australian Government’s commitment to deepening relations in the region.
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