By Evan Downs and Julie Rowell
“Your neighbor just called and said their five year old daughter is missing, what do you do?” That was the first question asked of Sri Lanka Life Saving and Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement community responders, beginning a search and rescue seminar with Embassy Colombo’s Indo-Pacific Command civil affairs team, Dec. 27–29, 2022. These volunteer community responders can now answer that question while leading their communities through a search in a critical time before more help arrives. Sri Lanka Life Saving serves as a national body for life saving and water safety related activities throughout Sri Lanka and seeks volunteers of all ages and communities. Sri Lanka Life Saving often partners with the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement community, whose goal is to mentor young men and women on non-violent social transformation to meet basic human needs within their own villages from clean drinking water to transparent elections.
The embassy’s civil affairs team directed a three-day search and rescue seminar with Sri Lanka Life Saving and Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement community volunteers to empower these grass roots emergency leaders. The seminar included one day of classroom training on the Incident Command System and initial response. The team then traveled to Mount K Resort where they spent one day on a mountain to discuss search planning and clue awareness amidst the jungle and tea gardens while staying in cabins that night. The next day began with a simulated response scenario to find a missing person with dementia in the rural landscape.
These continuous U.S. and Sri Lankan efforts enhance humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts in the Indo-Pacific region by supporting friend, ally, and partner requests for assistance in providing military-to-civil engagements with realistic training scenarios. Sri Lanka Life Saving and Sarvodaya are passionate about maintaining these skills and eager to learn more in partnership with American soldiers.
Evan Downs is the civil affairs team leader and Julie Rowell is the civil affairs non-commissioned officer at Embassy Colombo.