COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, June 13, 2017 —
The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie arrived here June 11 to support humanitarian assistance operations in the wake of severe flooding and landslides that devastated many regions of the country.
U.S. Pacific Command also will deploy military aircraft and other specialists who will join in the humanitarian efforts, officials said.
"We share in the sorrow of the Sri Lankan people at the loss of life and devastation brought on by this disaster," said Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., Pacom commander.
"Friends help friends, and the United States stands with Sri Lanka during this difficult time,” Harris said. “U.S. forces will coordinate with our Sri Lankan counterparts to support recovery efforts. We will work closely with our interagency partners from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and others to ensure continued, timely and swift responses to requests from the government of Sri Lanka."
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. Because of the long-standing friendship between the United States and Sri Lanka, American forces are able to respond with critically needed capabilities.
"We're very proud to have the opportunity to provide relief and assistance to the citizens of Sri Lanka," said Navy Capt. Darren McPherson, USS Lake Erie's commanding officer. "Whether it's rehabilitating flooded areas or providing food and water, our sailors are well-trained for this mission and we are ready to execute on behalf of the United States."
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, U.S. Navy doctors and civil engineers aboard USNS Fall River 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. Those relationships are helping U.S. military personnel efficiently integrate into the current Sri Lanka humanitarian response mission, officials said.
"Americans and Sri Lankans have shared a deep bond throughout the history of our two countries," said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap. "The people of both countries have always stood side-by-side in times of need."
USS Lake Erie left its homeport of San Diego in May on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific with an embarked detachment from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 49.
As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Task Force 73, conducts planning, organizes resources and directly supports the execution of maritime exercises and engagements such as Pacific Partnership, the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity with Vietnam and the multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
(From a Task Force 73 news release.)