VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka--For nine months, U.S. servicemembers in the Army, Navy and Air Force supported and carried out the 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support)'s humanitarian demining mission on the creation and implementation of a course to make Sri Lanka landmine free.
Sri Lankans recognized the danger these landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXO) have created and called on U.S. forces for assistance with teaching techniques on how to reduce them with minimal injuries to both military and civilians.
The 18th MEDCOM (DS) received this tasking and conducted our initial site survey in November 2012, said Sgt. Maj. David A. Galati, the 18th MEDCOM's Chief of Clinical Services and officer-in-charge of this mission.
During the site survey, the two countries agreed the training should consist of explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), basic first responder (BFR) and veterinary training tailored specifically for them and their missions; while giving Sri Lankans the ability to learn, and eventually teach, the material to their fellow countrymen. The approved training was divided into three phases.
"By February 2013 the first phase [of the training] kicked off," added Galati. "Each phase was built on each other. Phase one consisted of our team giving classes to engineers and their medics. For phase two, we lead the training to a group of engineers with their medics assisting us; and during the second week we had their medics lead the training for another group of engineers. Phase three is where we evaluated the trainers as they taught without any assistant from us, beside feedback at the end of each day."
This type of training mirrors the train-the-trainer design currently used by the U.S. Army.
"We designed the course as a train-the-trainer model so there is a continuation of the program within the country," said Naval Chief Petty Officer Sidney Sykes, the Senior Enlisted Adviser and Chief Hospital Corpsman for the Defense Institute for Medical Operations (DIMO). "Hopefully once we finish the train-the-trainer course for the Advanced First Responders Course [to be held in 2014], the U.S. will only come to monitor and assist in the programs, when asked."
As the Advanced First Responder, EOD and veterinary courses are planned, self-sustainment and implementation of the new courses are the current focus of the U.S. forces who have partnered with Sri Lankans.
"The past nine months have been focused on building up the demining training we have conducted and preparing the Sri Lankans for the next level of training," said 1st Sgt. David Silva, the 74th EOD 1st Sgt. "Having the basic and advanced EOD capabilities equips them with the ability to remove landmines, as well as UXO's that would have slowed down the progress during demining missions."
The ongoing collaboration between these two countries gives them the ability to refine the material, as it is taught, to make it as tailored as possible for those carrying out the demining missions.
Both sides of this partnership are aiming for a well-developed training program where the Sri Lankans can self-sustain with little help from the U.S., said Galati. The ultimate goal is the integration of these classes into their basic training so the Soldier will arrive to the unit fully trained. Currently, they have basic first aid in their basic training, which will be replace by BFR by the end of 2014.
In order for the Sri Lankan Engineer Brigade to accomplish its next level of training, the 18th MEDCOM reached out to specific elements within the U.S. forces to obtain the best instructors to conduct this training.
I am happy to work with these individuals, said SLA Lance Cpl. Neel Pushpakumara, a 5th Engineer Regiment Para-vet technician and instructor. I am glad that they took the time to pick some of the best people to come teach us. They are very smart and if one does not know the answer, the other person does. They balance each other.
As the candidates for the next round of training are being decided, Sykes reflected on his interaction and partnership with the SLA Engineer Brigade Soldier's over this past year as productive and positive thus far.
"With the implementation of this training, they are ensuring an increase in safety and real-time health support in case of any catastrophic event."